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verfions of thefe books, and fome of them into languages which are not at present, nor for many ages have been, spoken in any part of the world. The existence of these manuscripts and verfions proves that the fcriptures were not the production of any modern contrivance. It does away also the uncertainty which hangs over fuch publications as the works, real or pretended, of Offian and Rowley, in which the editors are challenged to produce their manuscripts, and to fhow where they obtained their copies. The number of manuscripts, far exceeding thofe of any other book, and their wide difperfion, affords an argument, in fome meafure, to the fenfes, that the scriptures anciently, in like manner as at this day, were more read and fought after than any other books, and that alfo in many different countries. The greatest part of spurious Chriftian writings are utterly loft, the reft preferved by fome fingle manufcript. There is weight also in Dr. Bentley's observation, that the New Teftament has fuffered lefs injury by the errors of transcribers than the


works of any profane author of the fame fize and antiquity; that is, there never was any writing in the preservation and purity of which the world was fo interested or fo careful,

II. An argument of great weight with those who are judges of the proofs upon which it is founded, and capable, through their testimony, of being addreffed to every understanding, is that which arifes from the style and language of the New Teftament. It is just fuch a language as might be expected from the apoftles, from perfons of their age and in their fituation, and from no other perfons. It is the ftyle neither of claffic authors nor of the ancient Chriftian fathers, but Greek coming from men of Hebrew origin; abounding, that is with Hebraic and Syriac idioms, fuch as would naturally be found in the writings of men who used a language spoken indeed where they lived, but not the common dialect of the country. This happy peculiarity is a strong proof of the genuineness of these writings; for who fhould

should forge them? TheChristian fathers were for the most part totally ignorant of Hebrew, and therefore were not likely to infert Hebraifms and Syriasms into their writings. The few who had a knowledge of the Hebrew, as Juftin Martyr, Origen, and Epiphanius, wrote in a language which bears no refemblance to that of the New Teftament. The Nazarenes, who underftood Hebrew, ufed chiefly, perhaps almost entirely, the gofpel of St. Matthew, and therefore cannot be fufpected of forging the rest of the facred writings. The argument, at any rate, proves the antiquity of these books; that they belonged to the age of the apoftles; that they could be compofed indeed in no other *.

III. Why should we queftion the genuinenefs of these books? Is it for that they contain accounts of fupernatural events? I apprehend that this, at the bottom, is the

* See this argument ftated more at large in Michaelis's Introduction (Marfh's tranflation), vol. I. c. ii. fec. 10. from which thefe obfervations are taken.


real, though fecret, caufe of our hesitation about them; for had the writings infcribed with the names of Matthew and John related nothing but ordinary hiftory, there would have been no more doubt whether thefe writings were theirs, than there is concerning the acknowledged works of Jofephus or Philo, that is, there would have been no doubt at all. Now it ought to be confidered that this reafon, however it may apply to the credit which is given to a writer's judg ment or veracity, affects the question of genuineness very indirectly. The works of Bede exhibit many wonderful relations; but who for that reafon doubts that they were written by Bede? The fame of a multitude of other authors. To which may be added,, that we afk no more for our books than what we allow to other books in fome fort fimilar to ours. We do not deny the genuineness. of the Koran. We admit that the hiftory of Apolonius Tyanæus, purporting to be written by Philoftratus, was really written by Philoftratus.

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IV. If it had been an easy thing in thể early times of the inftitution to have forged Christian writings, and to have obtained currency and reception to the forgeries, we should have had many appearing in the name of Chrift himfelf. No writings would have been received with fo much avidity and refpect as thefe; confequently none afforded fo great temptation to forgery. Yet have we heard but of one attempt of this fort deserving of the smallest notice, that in a piece of a very few lines, and fo far from fucceeding, I mean, from obtaining acceptance and reputation, or an acceptance and reputation in any wife fimilar to that which can be proved to have attended the books of the New Teftament, that it is not so much as mentioned by any writer of the three first centuries. The learned reader need not be informed that I mean the epiftle of Christ to Abgarus, King of Edeffa, found at present in the work of Eufebius*, as a piece acknowledged by him, though not without confiderable doubt whether the whole paffage * Hift. Eccl. 1. i. c. 15.

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