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bach, and edition by Michaëlis. Four different systems have respectively been proposed by Griesbach and Michaëlis, by Scholz, by Matthæi, and by Mr. Nolan; into which we cannot here enter, nor is it necessary we should ; and would merely observe, that the system of Mr. Nolan has our decided preference.
The various collations of manuscripts, versions, and fathers, which have been instituted, prove the inviolability of the Christian Scriptures. They all coincide in exhibiting the same Gospels, Acts, and Epistles; and they all contain the same doctrines and precepts. All the omissions of the ancient manuscripts put together, would not countenance the omission of one essential doctrine of the Gospel relative to faith or morals; and all the additions countenanced by the whole mass of manuscripts already collated, do not introduce a single essential point beyond what may be found in the most imperfect editions. Not frighted,' says Dr. Bentley, with the present 30,000 various readings, (said to be collected by Dr, Mill,) I, for my part, and as I believe many others, would not lament, if out of the old manuscripts yet untouched, 10,000 more were faithfully collected ; some of which, without question, would render the text more beautiful, just, and exact, though of no consequence to the main of religion ; nay, perhaps wholly synonymous in the view of common readers, and quite insensible in any modern version.' In fact, the various readings found in manuscripts should no more weaken any man's faith in the Divine Word, than the multitude of typographical errors found in some printed editions.*
EVIDENCE OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SACRED
1. Because the sacred writers could not be deceived themselves, being either eye-witnesses of the facts recorded, or deriving their information from the best sources.
In order that the reader may properly appreciate this species of evidence, I subjoin the following remarks (though not confined exclusively to it) on the Acts of the Apostles, which, independently of its universal reception in the Christian church as an inspired and authentic production, bears the most satisfactory internal evidence of its authenticity and truth. It is not a made up history: the language and manner of every speaker are different; and the same speaker is different in his manner according to the audience he addresses. St. Luke's long attendance
. Comprehensive Bible, Introd, p. 71.
upon St. Paul, and his having been an eye-witness of many of the facts which he has recorded, independently of his divine inspiration, render him a most respectable and credible historian ; and his medical knowledge, for he is allowed to have been a physician, enabled him both to form a proper judgment of the miraculous cures which were performed by St. Paul, and to give an authentic and circumstantial detail of them. The plainness and simplicity of the narrative are also strong circumstances in its favour. The writer evidently appears to have been very honest and impartial; and to have set down, very fairly, the objections which were made to Christianity, both by Jews and heathens, and the reflections which were cast upon it, and upon its first preachers. He has likewise, with a just and honest freedom, mentioned the weaknesses, faults and prejudices, both of the Apostles and their converts. There is also a great and remarkable harmony between the occasional hints dispersed throughout St. Paul's Epistles, and this history;* so that the Acts is the best clue to guide us in studying the Epistles of that Apostle. The other parts of the New Testament are likewise in perfect unison with this history, and tend greatly to confirm it; and the doctrines and principles are every where the same. The Gospels close with a reference to those things recorded in the Acts, particularly the promise of the Holy Spirit, which we know from this history, was poured out by Christ upon his disciples after his ascension; and the Epistles of the other Apostles, as well as those of St. Paul, plainly suppose, that these facts had actually occurred which are related in the Acts of the Apostles. So that the history of the Acts is one of the most important parts of the Sacred History; for, without it, neither the Gospels nor Epistles could have been so clearly understood; but, by the aid of it, the whole scheme of the Christian Revelation is set before us in a clear and easy view. Lastly, even the incidental circumstances mentioned by St. Luke correspond so exactly, and without any previous view of such correspondence, with the accounts of the best ancient historians, both Jews and heathens, that no person who had forged such a history in later ages, could have had the same external confirmation; but he inust have betrayed himself by alluding to some customs or opinions which have since sprung up, or by misrepresenting some circumstance, or using some phrase or expression not then in use. The plea of forgery, therefore, in later ages, cannot be allowed ; and, if St. Luke had published his history at so early a period, when some of the Apostles, and many other persons concerned in the transactions, were alive, and his account had not been true, he would have exposed himself to an easy confutation, and certain infamy. Since, therefore, the Acts of the Apostles are in themselves consistent and uniform; the incidental relations agreeable to the best historians that have come down to us; and the main facts, supported and confirmed by the other books of the New Testament, as well as by
• On these coincidences, see Dr. Paley's Horæ Paulina, where the subject is ably and fully
the unanimous testimony of the ancient Fathers, we may justly conclude, that if any history of former times deserves credit, the Acts of the Apostles ought to be received and credited ; and, if the history of the Acts of the Apostles be true, Christianity cannot be false.*
2. Because the sacred writers neither could nor would deceive
(1.) They could not deceive others, for the facts and events were of such a nature as totally precluded imposition; such as the rivers being turned into blood, Exod. 7. 20—25; and as there is a singular propriety in this and the other plagues, I subjoin an account of each. As the Nile was held sacred by the Egyptians (Plutarch, Is. et Osir. p. 353. et Sympos. I. viii. p. 729.) as well as the animals it contained, to which they annually sacrificed a girl, or as others say, both a boy and a girl, (Universal Hist. vol. i. p. 178, folio edit.) God might have designed this plague as a punishment for such idolatry and cruelty; and to shew them the baseness of those elements which they reverenced, and the insufficiency of the gods in which they trusted. All the punishments brought upon them bore a strict analogy to their crimes. See Bryant on the Plagues of Egypt, pp. 14– 27.f "The water of Egypt,' says the Abbe Mascrier, ‘is so delicious, that one would not wish the heat to be less, or to be delivered from the sensation of thirst. The Turks find it so exquisite, that they excite themselves to drink of it by eating salt. A person,' adds Mr. Harmer, (Observ. vol. iii. p. 564.) who never before heard of the deliciousness of the Nile water, and of the large quantities which on that account are drank of it, will, I am sure, find an energy in those words of Moses to PharaohThe Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river, (Ex. vii. 18.) which he never did before.f.
The plague of frogs, Exod. viii. 1—15. Ytby, tzephardeim, is evidently the same with the Arabic sdeis, zafda, Chaldaic, xyT7W, oordeanaya, and Syriac Sijo), oordeai, all of which denote frogs, as almost all interpreters, both ancient and modern, agree to render it; probably so called, as Bochart conceives, from dési zifa, a bank, and Ed, radâ, mud, because of delighting in muddy and marshy places. From this circumstance, the frog has many of its epithets in the Batrachomyomachia of Homer.f Whether the frog among the Egyptians was an object of reverence or abhorrence is uncertain. It might have been both at the same time, as many objects are known to have been among particular nations : for proof of which see the very learned Jacob Bryant, on the Plagues of
Egypt, pp. 31–34. In some ancient writers we have examples of a similar plague. The Abderites, according to Orosius, and the inhabitants
* See the Commentaries of Drs. Dodd and Clarke, Dr. Benson's History of Christianity, vol. ii. pp. 333–341, and Horne's Introduction, vol. iv, pp. 306, 307. Comprehensive Bible, Concluding Remarks on Acts. See also Remarks on Matthew, John, &c. pp. 44-46, supra.
+ Comprehensive Bible, Notes in locis.
of Pæonia and Dardania, according to Athenæus, were obliged to abandon their country, on account of the vast number of frogs by which their land was infested. See Bochart, Hieroz. P. ii. 1. v. c. 2.
The plague of lice, Exod. viii. 16, 17. 0032, kinnim, is rendered by the LXX. GRIPES, CRITES, or orvndes, and by the Vulgate, sciniphes, gnats ; and Mr. Harmer supposes he has found out the true meaning in the word tarrentes, a species of worm. Bochart, however, (Hieroz, vol. i. c. 18.) seems to have proved that lice, and not gnats, are meant; because, 1. they sprang from the dust, and not from the waters ; 2. they were on both man and beast, which cannot be said of gnats; 3. their name is derived from no, koon, to make firm, fix, establish, which cannot agree with gnats, flies, &c. which are ever changing place, and almost constantly on the wing ; 4. the term im, kinnah, is used by the Talmudists to express the louse. If this animal be intended, it must have been a very dreadful and afflicting plague to the Egyptians, and especially to the priests, who were obliged to shave the hair off every part of their bodies, and to wear a single linen tunic, to prevent vermin harbouring about them. See Herodotus, 1. ii. c. 37, and Bryant, pp. 44–48.*
The plague of flies, Exod. viii. 20—24. The word aw, árov, is rendered xuvojevia, the dog-fly, by the LXX. (who are followed by the learned Bochart) which must have been particularly hateful to the Egyptians, because they held dogs in the highest veneration, under which form they worshiped Anubis.* It is supposed to be the same as is called in Abyssinia the zimb; which word, says Mr. Bruce, is Arabic, and signifies the fly in general. The Chaldee paraphrase is content with calling it simply zebub, which has the same general signification. The Ethiopic version calls it tsaltsalya, which is the true name of this particular fly in Geez. It is in size very little longer than a bee, of a thicker proportion, and its wings, which are broader, are placed separate like those of a fly. Its head is large; the upper jaw or lip is sharp, and has at the end of it a strong pointed hair, of about a quarter of an inch in length; the lower jaw has two of these hairs; and this pencil of hairs, joined together, makes a resistance to the finger, nearly equal to a strong bristle of a hog. Its legs are serrated on the inside, and the whole covered with brown hair or down. It has no sting, though it appears to be of the bee kind. As soon as this winged assassin appears, and its buzzing is heard, the cattle forsake their food, and run wildly about the plain, till they die, worn out with affright, fatigue, and pain.t How intolerable a plague of flies can prove, is evident from the fact, that whole districts have been laid waste by them. Such was the fate of Myuns in Ionia, (Pausan. 1. vii.) and of Alarnæ.-The inhabitants were forced to quit these cities, not being able to stand against the flies and gnats with which they were pestered. Trajan was obliged to raise the siege of a city in Arabia, before which he had sat down, being driven away by the swarms of these insects. (Dion Cas
sius, 1. Ixviii. Ælian de Animal, 1, xi. c. 23.) Hence different people had deities whose office it was to defend them against flies. Among these may be reckoned Baalzebub, the fly-god of Ekron: Hercules muscarum abactor, Hercules, the expeller of flies; and hence Jupiter had the titles of atrouvios, uviaypos, puvioxopos, because he was supposed to expel flies, and especially clear his temples of these insects. See Bryant, pp. 54–56.*
The murrain of beasts, Exod. ix. 1—7. We may observe a particular scope and meaning in this calamity, if we consider it in regard to the Egyptians, which would not have existed in regard to any other people.They held in idolatrous reverence almost every animal, (Herod. I. ii. c. 64. Porphyry, p. 372.); but some they held in particular veneration; as the ox, cow, and ram. Among these Apis and Mnevis are well known; the former being a sacred bull worshipped at Memphis, as the latter was at Heliopolis. A cow or heifer had the like honours at Momemphis; and the same practice seems to have been adopted in most of the Egyptian nomes. (Strabo, lib. xvii. Herodotus, lib. i. c. 38.) By the infliction of this judgment, the Egyptian deities sunk before the God of the Hebrews. See Bryant, pp. 87-93.*
The plague of boils and blains, Exod. ix. 8, &c. where we read, that “the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it towards the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh,” &c. This was a significant command; not only referring to the fiery furnace which was a type of the slavery of the Israelites, but to a cruel rite common among the Egyptians. They had several cities styled Typhonian, in which at particular seasons they sacrificed men; who were burnt alive, and the ashes of the victim were scattered upwards in the air, with the view, probably, that where any atom of dust was carried a blessing was entailed. The like, therefore was done by Moses, though with a different intention, and more certain effect. See Bryant, pp. 93—106.*
The plague of hail, Exod. ix. 21-26.- This must have been a circumstance of all others the most incredible to an Egyptian; for in Egypt there fell no rain, the want of which was supplied by dews, and the overflowing of the Nile. See Tibullus, l. 1. Eleg. vii. v. 25; Mela, l. 1. c. 9; Plutarch, De facie in orbe lunæ, p. 939; Marcellinus, l. xxii. c. 16;. and Claudian, De Nilo, v. 5. The Egyptians must, therefore, have perceived themselves particularly aimed at in these fearful events, especially as they were very superstitious. There seems likewise a propriety in their being punished by fire and water, as they were guilty of the grossest idolatry towards these elements. Scarcely any thing could have distressed the Egyptians more than the destruction of the flax, as the whole nation wore linen garments. The ruin of their barley was equally fatal, both to their trade, and to their private advantage. See Bryant, pp. 108—117.*
The plague of locusts, Exod. x. 1..6.-The word nan arbeh, locust,
* Comprehensive Bible, in locis.