« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
during the middle ages, one cannot but see the hand of God in the preservation intact of the Inspired Book. When we reflect that the canon law of Rome, as Janus has scathingly demonstrated, is little better than a compilation of wicked forgeries-pretended Papal decrees, pretended imperial concessions, and so forth—it is truly surprising that the unscrupulous priesthood, who then had the custody of most of the manuscripts of the New Testament, never dared to alter the sacred text so as to support any of these fictitious claims, and the Codex Vaticanus ranks at this day, in the judgment of scholars, as equal in authority to the Sinaitic and Alexandrian, the three oldest and purest MSS. of the New Testament that are known to exist.
But what shall we say about the textual errors of the New Testament? Is it not true that we have many different readings of the sacred text, and how can this be reconciled with the theory of an authoritative record, inspired by God Himself? No subject of modern times has engaged so much erudition as this one of the proper text of the New Testament. Hundreds of scholars have made it a life work, many of them possessed of the acutest minds and extraordinary perseverance, and it may fairly be asserted now, that no important variation among the ancient codices remains undiscovered. The eagerness with which this question has been pursued may be judged from the fact that great questions of ecclesiastical policy sometimes hung upon the rendering of a few words of Scripture, and sects that had vehemently opposed each other for centuries would have given worlds to get a morsel of additional weight to their respective theories from the Word of God. But what has been the net result of all this investigation? We believe we are within the mark when we say that not a single leading doctrine has been touched or any of the great features of Revelation altered in an appreciable degree. The textual variations,—and they amount to thousands,—are, in the great majority of cases, minute verbal alterations, in no way affecting the sense of the passage—just such variations as must have resulted from repeated copyings of dusty and well-worn MSS. by human hands. There is a marvellous absence of intentional interpolation, and we do not believe it can be shown that, in the fourteen centuries when the world was dependent on the pen of the copyist for the transmission of the Divine Word, there was ever a bona fide attempt of any importance to tamper with the original text. No classical work has stood the stress of modern criticism in the way that the New Testament has done. The works of Plato and Aristotle have been handled so freely by modern critics that the original text recedes into a nebulous background. Even Shakespeare is a battleground for textual purists, and it is surprising how many various readings are supported by good authority, and yet Shakespeare wrote when printing had given an author incomparable advantages over the writers of the New Testament. We venture to predict that eighteen hundred years after Shakespeare wrote, the true text of his plays will be involved in immensely greater obscurity than are the writings of the New Testament at the present day.
The argument against the authority of the New Testament, drawn from its textual variations, falls to the ground when thoroughly sifted ; indeed a strong argument may be made out in favour of a special Providence from the wonderful success that has attended the preservation of the Divine records.
We have not touched here upon the question of the textual purity of the Old Testament; it requires an extent of learning which the writer does not possess, nor has it an essential bearing upon the general scope of our argument. We will only remark, that the Hebrew race paid extraordinary attention to the preservation of their sacred books; their scribes counted not merely the words, but the letters in the Old Testament, and the copies were revised with the most vigilant care, so that there is every reason to believe that our Hebrew version of the Old Testament is identical with what the Jews possessed many hundreds of years before Christ.
The general conclusion to which we are led from these observations is as follows:-1 written and authoritative record of God's revelation was necessary to perpetuate the Christian religion. That record has been provided in the Bible. It comes down to us with the sanction of the univer
sal Church; it is attested by the most abundant evidence, as having from the earliest times spoken with the authority of the word of God, and there is no proof that it has been tampered with to any appreciable extent, but ample evidence that we have the ipsissima verba of the writers as closely as is compatible with the fact, that human agency has transmitted them through countless generations, and that God has not chosen to work a special miracle on their behalf.