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present histories superseded others. They soon acquired a character, and established a reputation, which does not appear to have belonged to any other: that, at least, can be proved concerning them, which cannot be proved concerning any other.
But to return to the point which led to these reflections. By considering our records in either of the two views in which we have represented them, we shall perceive that we possess a collection of proofs, and not a naked or solitary testimony; and that the written evidence is of such a kind, and comes to us in such a state, as the natural order and progress of things, in the infancy of the institution, might be expected to produce.
Thirdly. The genuineness of the historical books of the New Testament is undoubtedly a point of importance, because the strength of their evidence is augmented by our knowledge of the situation of their authors, their relation to the subject, and the part which they sustained in the transaction; and the testimonies which we are able to prodece compose a firm ground of persuasion that the gospels were written by the persons whose names they bear. Nevertheless, I must be allowed to state, that, to the argument which I am endeavouring to maintain, this point is not essential ; I mean so essential as that the fate of the argument depends upon it. The question before us is, whether the gospel exhibit the story which the apostles and first emissaries of the religion published ; and for which they acted and suffered in the manner, in which, for some miraculous story or other, they did act and suffer. Now let us suppose that we possessed no other information concerning these books than that they were written by early disciples of Christianity; that they were known and read during the time, or near the time, of the original apostles of the religion; that by Christians whom the apostles instructed, by societies of Christians which the apostles founded, these books were received (by which term “received," I mean that they were believed to contain authentic accounts of the transaction upon which the religion rested, and accounts which were accordingly used, repeated, and relied upon this reception would be a valid proof that these books, whoever were the authors of them, must have accorded with what the apostles taught. A reception by the first race of Christians, is evidence that they agreed with what the first teachers of the religion deliver. ed. In particular, if they had not agreed with what the
apostles themselves preached, how could they have gained credit in churches and societies which the apostles established ?
Now the fact of their early existence, and not only of their existence, but their reputation, is made out by some ancient testimonies which do not happen to specify the names of the writers; add to which, what hath been already hinted, that two out of the four gospels contain averments in the body of the history, which, though they do not disclose the names, fix the time and situation of the authors, viz. that one was written by an eye-witness of the sufferings of Christ, the other by a contemporary of the apostles. In the gospel of St. John, (xix. 35.) after describing the crucifixion, with the particular circumstance of. piercing Christ's side with a spear, the historian adds, as from himself, “ and be that saw it bare record, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.” Again, (xxi. 24.) after relating a conversation which passed between Peter and the disciple, as it is there expressed, whom Jesus loved, it is added, "this is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things.” This testimony, let it be remarked, is not the less worthy of regard, because it is in one view imperfect. The name is not mentioned, which, if a fraudulent purpose had been intended, would have been done. The third of our present gospels purports to have been written by the person who wrote the Acts of the apostles; in which latter bistory, or rather latter part of the same history, the author, by using in various places the first person plural, declares himself to have been a contemporary of all, and a companion of one of the original preachers of the religion.
CHAP. IX. There is satisfactory evidence that many persons, professing
to be original witnesses of the Christian Miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.
OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SCRIPTURES." NOT forgetting, therefore, whatcredit is due to the evan. gelic history, supposing even any one of the four gospels to
be genuine; what credit is due to the gospels, even supposing nothing to be known concerning them but that they were written by early disciples of the religion, and received with deference by early Christian churches; more especially not forgetting what credit is due to the New Testament in its capacity of cumulative evidence; we now proceed to state the proper and distinct proofs, which show not only the general value of these records, but their specific authority, and the high probability there is that they actually came from the persons whose names they bear.
There are, however, a few preliminary reflections, by which we may draw up with more regularity to the propositions, upon which the close and particular discussion of the subject depends. Of which nature are the following:
I. We are able to produce a great number of ancient manuscripts, found in many different countries, and in countries widely distant from each other, all of them anterior to the art of printing, some certainly seven or eight hundred years old, and some which have been preserved probably above a thousand years.* We have also many ancient versions of these books, and some 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 versions proves that the scriptures were not the production of any modern contrivance. It does away also the uncertainty which hangs over such publications as the works, real or pretended, of Ossian and Rowley, in which the editors are challenged to produce their manuscripts, and to show where they obtained their copies. The number of manuscripts, far exceeding those of any other book, and their wide dispersion, affords an argument, in some measure, to the senses, that the scriptures anciently, in like manner as at this day, were more read and sought after than any other books, and that also in many different countries. The greatest part of spurious Christian writings are utterly lost, the rest preserved by some single manuscript. There is weight also in Dr. Bentley's observation, that the New Testament has suffered less injury by the errors of transcribers than the works of any profane author of the same size and antiquity: that is, there never was any writing in the preservation and purity of which the world was so interested or so careful.
II. An argument of great weight with those who are
*The Alexandrian manuscript, now in the king's library, was written probably in she fourth or fifth century.
judges of the proofs upon which it is founded, and capable, through their testimon", ofbting addressed to every understanding, is that which arises from the style and language of the New Tesiament. It is just such language as might be expecied from ihe apostles, from persons of their age and in their situation, and from no other persons. It is the sive nevher of classic «uthors, por of the ancient Christian fathers, but Greek coming from men of Hebrew origin; abounding, that is, with Hebraic and Syriac idioms, such as woulu naturally be found in the writings of men who used a language spoken indeed where they lived, but not the commor dialect of the country. Tbis happy peculiar23 is a strong proof of the genuineness of these writings; or whe shoeic iorge them? The Christian fathers were for the mea: part 10aily ignorant of Hebrew, and therefore Wat nimel te inseri Heloraisms and Syriasms into their wrings. The law who had a knowledge of the Hebrew, ** Jun Parys. Origen, and Epiphanius, wrote in a language wird beinns na resemtlance to that of the New Tegimen. The Nazarenes, who understood Hebrew, Ne chuti, perhaps almost entirely, the gospel of St. Nadew, and servire cannot
be suspected of forging the Yobe SCR wins The argument, at any rate,
reside and these bocks; ibat they belonged wa the amicies; that they could be composed ཝཔའི་ ཨརཝ ཏེ་
1 saa me qesita the genuineness of these la dari ither contain acccents of supernatural 12 Inbend hat this at the betrom, is the real,
SPLNear bestation abcut them; for had The rawith the names of Maribew and John hair andi enänarr Exert, there would have Arvih par Bus whether these writings were theirs, then there is covering the acknowledged works of Josepuhus er l'hite; that s there would have been no doubt at all Vow it ought te be considered that this reason, however it may apply to the credit which is given to a writer's julgament or veracity, adeets the question of genuineness very indirectly. The works of Bede exhibit many wonderal Relations, but who for that reason doubts that they were written by Bede? The same of a multitude of other
To which may be added, that we ask no more
rd more at large in Michaelis's Introduction, (Marsh's transuwbich thcat obser auons are takell.
sort similar to ours. We do not deny the genuineness of the Koran. We admit that the history of Appollonius Tyanæus, purporting to be written by Philostratus, was really written by Philostratus. IV. If it had been
an easy thing in the early times of the institution 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 Christ himself. No writings would have been received with so much avidity and respect as these ; consequently none afforded so great temptation to forgery. Yet have we heard but of one attempt of this sort deserving of the smallest notice, that in a piece of a very few lines, and so far from succeeding, I mean from obtaining acceptance and reputation, or an acceptance and reputation in any wise similar to that which can be proved to have attended the books of the New Testament, 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 epistle of Christ to Abgarus, king of Edessa, found at present in the work of Eusebius,* as a piece acknowledged by him, though not without considerable doubt whether the whole passage be not an interpolation, as it is most certain that after the publication of Eusebius's work, this epistle was universally rejected.t
V. If the ascription of the gospels to their respective authors had been arbitrary or conjectural, they would have been ascribed to more eminent men. This observation holds concerning the three first gospels, the reputed authors of which were enabled, by their situation, to obtain true intelligence, and were likely to deliver an honest account of what they knew, but were persons not distinguished in the history by extraordinary marks of notice or commendation. Of the apostles, I hardly know any one, of whom less is said than of Matthew, or of whom the little that is said, is less calculated to magnify his character. Of Mark nothing is said in the gospels; and what is said of any person of that name in the Acts, and in the epistles, in no part
*Eccl. H. 1. i. c. 13. Augustin, A. D. 395, (de consens evang. c. 34.) had heard that the Pagans pretended to
he possessed of an epistle from Christ to Peter and Paul, but he had never seen it, and appears to doubt of the existence of any such piece, either genuine or spurious. No other ancient writer mentions it. He also, and he alone notices, and that in order to condemu it, an pistle ascribed to Christ by the Manichees, A. D. 270, and a short hymn attributed to him by the Priscillianists, A. D. 378 (cont. Faust. Man. lib. 28. c. 4.) The lateness of the writer who notices these things, the manner in which he notices them. and, abo: e all, the silence of every preceding writer, render them unworthy of consideration.