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be also sufficiently proved, that, in the course and Luke; and let it also for a moment be supposed prosecution of their ministry, these men had sub-that these histories were not, in fact, written by jected themselves to extreme hardships, fatigue, Matthew and Luke; yet, if it be true that Mark, and peril; but suppose the accounts which they a contemporary of the apostles, living in habits of published had not been committed to writing till society with the apostles, a fellow-traveller and some ages after their times, or at least that no fellow-labourer with some of them; if, I say, it be histories, but what had been composed some ages true that this person made the compilation, it folafterwards, had reached our hands; we should lows, that the writings from which he made it have said, and with reason, that we were willing existed in the time of the apostles, and not only to believe these men under the circumstances in so, but that they were then such esteem and which they delivered their testimony, but that we credit, that a companion of the apostles formed a did not, at this day, know with sufficient evidence history out of thein. Let the Gospel of Mark be what their testimony was. Had we received the called an epitome of that of Matthew; if a person particulars of it from any of their own number, in the situation in which Mark is described to from any of those who lived and conversed with have been, actually made the epitome, it affords them, from any of their hearers, or even from any the strongest possible attestation to the character of their contemporaries, we should have had some of the original. thing to rely upon. Now, if our books be genuine, we have all these. We have the very species of information which, as it appears to me, our imagination would have carved out for us, if it had been wanting.
Again, parallelisms in sentences, in words, and in the order of words, have been traced out between the Gospel of Matthew and that of Luke; which concurrence cannot easily be explained otherwise than by supposing, either that Luke had consulted But I have said, that if any one of the four Matthew's history, or, what appears to me in noGospels be genuine, we have not only direct his wise incredible, that minutes of some of Christ's torical testimony to the point we contend for, but discourses, as well as brief memoirs of some pastestimony which, so far as that point is concerned, sages of his life, had been committed to writing at cannot reasonably be rejected. If the first Gospel the time; and that such written accounts had by was really written by Matthew, we have the narra- both authors been occasionally admitted into their tive of one of the number, from which to judge what histories. Either supposition is perfectly consistwere the miracles, and the kind of miracles, which ent with the acknowledged formation of St. Luke's the apostles attributed to Jesus. Although, for narrative, who professes not to write as an eyeargument's sake, and only for argument's sake, witness, but to have investigated the original of we should allow that this Gospel had been erro- every account which he delivers: in other words, neously ascribed to Matthew; yet, if the Gospel to have collected them from such documents and of Saint John be genuine, the observation holds testimonies, as he, who had the best opportunities with no less strength. Again, although the Gos- of making inquiries, judged to be authentic. pels both of Matthew and John could be supposed Therefore, allowing that this writer also, in some to be spurious, yet, if the Gospel of Saint Luke instances, borrowed from the Gospel which we were truly the composition of that person, or of call Matthew's, and once more allowing, for the any person, be his name what it might, who was sake of stating the argument, that that Gospel was actually in the situation in which the author of not the production of the author to whom we that Gospel professes himself to have been, or if ascribe it; yet still we have, in Saint Luke's Gosthe Gospel which bears the name of Mark really pel, a history given by a writer immediately conproceeded from him; we still, even upon the low-nected with the transaction, with the witnesses of est supposition, possess the accounts of one writer it, with the persons engaged in it, and composed at least, who was not only contemporary with the from materials which that person, thus situated, apostles, but associated with them in their minis-deemed to be safe sources of intelligence; in other try; which authority seems sufficient, when the words, whatever supposition be made concerning question is simply what it was which these apos- any or all the other Gospels, if Saint Luke's Gostles advanced. pel be genuine, we have in it a credible evidence of the point which we maintain.
I think it material to have this well noticed. The New Testament contains a great number of The Gospel according to Saint John appears to distinct writings, the genuineness of any one of be, and is on all hands allowed to be, an independwhich is almost sufficient to prove the truth of the ent testimony, strictly and properly so called. Notreligion: it contains, however, four distinct histo-withstanding, therefore, any connexion, or supries, the genuineness of any one of which is per-posed connexion, between some of the Gospels, I fectly sufficient. If, therefore, we must be con-again repeat what I before said, that if any one of sidered as encountering the risk of error in as the four be genuine, we have, in that one strong signing the authors of our books, we are entitled reason, from the character and situation of the to the advantage of so many separate probabilities. writer, to believe that we possess the accounts And although it should appear that some of the which the original emissaries of the religion deevangelists had seen and used each other's works; livered. this discovery, whilst it subtracts indeed from their characters as testimonies strictly independ-of Christianity, next to their separate, we are to ent, diminishes, I conceive, little, either their se- consider their aggregate authority. Now, there parate authority (by which I mean the authority is in the evangelic history a cumulation of testiof any one that is genuine,) or their mutual con-mony which belongs hardly to any other history, firmation. For, let the most disadvantageous but which our habitual mode of reading the Scripsupposition possible be made concerning them; tures sometimes causes us to overlook. let it be allowed, what I should have no great dif- passage, in any wise relating to the history of ficulty in admitting, that Mark compiled his his-Christ, is read to us out of the epistle of Clemens tory almost entirely from those of Matthew and Romanus, the epistles of Ignatius, of Polycarp, or
Secondly: In treating of the written evidences
from any other writing of that age, we are imme-| diately sensible of the confirmation which it affords to the Scripture account. Here is a new witness. Now, if we had been accustomed to read the Gos-relate it; and whilst the apostles were busied in pel of Matthew alone, and had known that of preaching and travelling, in collecting disciples, in Luke only as the generality of Christians know forming and regulating societies of converts, in the writings of the apostolical fathers, that is, had supporting themselves against opposition; whilst known that such a writing was extant and ac- they exercised their ministry under the harassings knowledged; when we came, for the first time, to of frequent persecution, and in a state of almost look into what it contained, and found many of continual alarm, it is not probable that, in this enthe facts which Matthew recorded, recorded also gaged, anxious, and unsettled condition of life, there, many other facts of a similar nature added, they would think immediately of writing histories and throughout the whole work the same general for the information of the public or of posterity.* series of transactions stated, and the same general But it is very probable, that emergencies might character of the person who was the subject of the draw from some of them occasional letters upon history preserved, I apprehend that we should feel the subject of their mission, to converts, or to soour minds strongly impressed by this discovery of cieties of converts, with which they were connectfresh evidence. We should feel a renewal of the ed; or that they might address written discourses same sentiment in first reading the Gospel of Saint and exhortations to the disciples of the institution John. That of Saint Mark perhaps would strike at large, which would be received and read with a us as an abridgment of the history with which we respect proportioned to the character of the writer. were already acquainted; but we should naturally Accounts in the mean time would get abroad of reflect, that that history was abridged by such a the extraordinary things that had been passing, person as Mark, or by any person of so early an written with different degrees of information and age, it afforded one of the highest possible attest-correctness. The extension of the Christian soations to the value of the work. This successive ciety, which could no longer be instructed by a disclosure of proof would leave us assured, that personal intercourse with the apostles, and the there must have been at least some reality in a possible circulation of imperfect or erroneous narstory which not one, but many, had taken in hand ratives, would soon teach some amongst them the to commit to writing. The very existence of four expediency of sending forth authentic memoirs of separate histories would satisfy us that the subject the life and doctrine of their Master. When achad a foundation; and when, amidst the variety counts appeared authorized by the name, and crewhich the different information of the different dit, and situation of the writers, recommended or writers had supplied to their accounts, or which recognised by the apostles and first preachers of their different choice and judgment in selecting the religion, or found to coincide with what the their materials had produced, we observed many apostles and first preachers of the religion had facts to stand the same in all; of these facts, at taught, other accounts would fall into disuse and least, we should conclude, that they were fixed in neglect; whilst these maintaining their reputation their credit and publicity. If, after this, we should (as, if genuine and well founded, they would do) come to the knowledge of a distinct history, and under the test of time, inquiry, and contradiction, that also of the same age with the rest, taking up might expected to make their way into the the subject where the others had left it, and carry-hands of Christians of all countries of the world. ing on a narrative of the effects produced in the This seems the natural progress of the business; world by the extraordinary causes of which we and with this the records in our possession, and had already been informed, and which effects sub- the evidence concerning them, correspond. We sist at this day, we should think the reality of the have remaining, in the first place, many letters original story in no little degree established by this of the kind above described, which have been presupplement. If subsequent inquiries should bring served with a care and fidelity answering to the to our knowledge, one after another, letters writ- respect with which we may suppose that such letten by some of the principal agents in the business, ters would be received. But as these letters were upon the business, and during the time of their not written to prove the truth of the Christian reactivity and concern in it, assuming all along and ligion, in the sense in which we regard that quesrecognising the original story, agitating the question: nor to convey information of facts, of which tions that arose out of it, pressing the obligations those to whom the letters were written had been which resulted from it, giving advice and direc-previously informed; we are not to look in the tions to those who acted upon it; I conceive that for any thing more than incidental allusions to we should find, in every one of these, a still fur- the Christian history. We are able, however, to ther support to the conclusion we had formed. At gather from these documents, various particular present, the weight of this successive confirmation attestations which have been already enumerated; is, in a great measure, unperceived by us. The and this is a species of written evidence, as far as evidence does not appear to us what it is; for, being it goes, in the highest degree satisfactory, and in from our infancy accustomed to regard the New point of time perhaps the first. But for our more Testament as one book, we see in it only one testi- circumstantial information, we have in the next mony. The whole occurs to us as a single evidence; place five direct histories, bearing the names of and its different parts, not as distinct attestations, persons acquainted, by their situation, with the but as different portions only of the same. Yet in truth of what they relate, and three of them purthis conception of the subject, we are certainly porting, in the very body of the narrative, to be mistaken; for the very discrepancies among the several documents which form our volume, prove, if all other proof were wanting, that in their original composition they were separate, and most of them independent productions.
If we dispose our ideas in a different order, the matter stands thus:-Whilst the transaction was recent, and the original witnesses were at hand to
*This thought occurred to Eusebius: "Nor were the apostles of Christ greatly concerned about the writing of books, being engaged in a more excellent ministry, which is above all human power."-Eccles. Hist. 1. 1.
c. 24. The same consideration accounts also for the paucity of Christian writings in the first century of its era.
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 eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, the other by a
written by such persons; of which books we know, that some were in the hands of those who were contemporaries of the apostles, and that, in the age immediately posterior to that, they were in the hands, we may say, of every one, and received by Christians with so much respect and deference, as to be constantly quoted and referred to by them, without any doubt of the truth of their accounts. They were treated as such histories, proceeding from such authorities, might expect to be treated. In the preface to one of our histories, we have in-contemporary of the apostles. In the Gospel of timations left us of the existence of some ancient Saint John, (xix. 35,) after describing the cruciaccounts which are now lost. There is nothing fixion, with the particular circumstance of piercing in this circumstance that can surprise us. It was Christ's side with a spear, the historian adds, as to be expected, from the magnitude and novelty of for himself, "and he that saw it bare record, the occasion, that such accounts would swarm. and his record is true, and he knoweth that he When better accounts came forth, these died saith true, that ye might believe." Again, (xxi. away. Our present histories superseded others. 24,) after relating a conversation which passed They soon acquired a character and established a between Peter and "the disciple," as it is there reputation which does not appear to have belonged expressed, "whom Jesus loved," it is added, "this to any other: that, at least, can be proved concerning is the disciple which testifieth of these things, them, which cannot be proved concerning any other. and wrote these things." This testimony, let it But to return to the point which led to these be remarked, is not the less worthy of regard, bereflections. By considering our records in either cause it is, in one view, imperfect. The name is of the two views in which we have represented not mentioned; which, if a fraudulent purpose them, we shall perceive that we possess a collec- had been intended, would have been done. The tion of proofs, and not a naked or solitary testi-third of our present Gospels purports to have been mony; and that the written evidence is of such a written by the person who wrote the Acts of the kind, and comes to us in such a state, as the na- Apostles; in which latter history, or rather, latter tural order and progress of things, in the infancy part of the same history, the author, by using, in of the institution, might be expected to produce. 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.
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 produce, compose a firm ground of persuasion, that the Gospels were written by the persons whose names they bear. Nevertheless, 1 inust 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 Gospels 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 transactions 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 delivered. 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?
There is satisfactory evidence that many, 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 those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.
THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
Nor forgetting, therefore, what credit is due to the evangelical history, supposing even any ne 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 actual ly 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 print
ing, some certainly seven or eight hundred years
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 ne-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 first three 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.†
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 first three 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
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 addressed to every understanding, is that which arises from the style and language of the New Testament. It is just such a language as might be expected from the apostles, from persons of their age and in their situation, and from no other persons. It is the style neither of classic authors, nor of the ancient Christian Fathers, but Greek coming from men of Hebrew origin; abounding, that is, with Hebraic and Syriac idioms, such 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 should forge them? The Christian fathers were for the most part totally ignorant of Hebrew, and therefore were not likely to insert Hebraisms and Syriasms into their writings. The few who had a knowledge of the Hebrew, as Justin Martyr, Origen, and Epiphanius, wrote in a language which bears no resemblance to that of the New Testament. The Nazarenes, who understood Hebrew, used chiefly, perhaps almost entirely, the Gospel of St. Matthew, and therefore cannot be suspected of forging the rest of the sacred writings. The argument, at any rate, proves the antiquity of these books; that they belonged to the age of the apostles; that they could be composed indeed in no other.t
III. Why should we question the genuineness of these books? Is it for that they contain accounts of supernatural events? I apprehend that this, at the bottom, is the real, though secret, cause of our
The Alexandrian manuscript, now in the British Museum, was written probably in the fourth or fifth
hesitation about them: for, had the writings inscribed with the names of Matthew and John, related nothing but ordinary history, there would have been no more doubt whether these writings were theirs, than there is concerning the acknowledged works of Josephus or Philo; that is, there would have been no doubt at all. Now it ought to be considered that this reason, however it may apply to the credit which is given to a writer's judgment or veracity, affects the question of genuineness very indirectly. The works of Bede exhibit many wonderful relations: but who, for that reason, doubts that they were written by Bede? The same of a multitude of other authors. To which may be added, that we ask no more for our books than what we allow to other books in some sort similar to ours: we do not deny the genuineness of the Koran; we admit that the history of Apollonius Tyanæus, purporting to be written by Philostratus, was really written by Philostratus.
See this argument stated more at large in Michaelis's Introduction (Marsh's translation,) vol. i. c. ii. sect. 10, from which these observations are taken.
*Hist. Eccl. lib. i. c. 15.
Augustin, A. D. 895, (De Consens. Evang. c. 34.) bad heard that the Pagans pretended to be possessed of an epistle from Christ Peter and Paul; but he had never seen it, and appears to doubt of the existence of any cient writer mentions it. He also, and he alone, notices, such piece, either genuine or spurious. No other an and that in order to condemn it, an epistle ascribed to Christ by the Manichees, A. D. 270, and a short hymn attributed to him by the priscillianists, A. D. 377. [cont Faust. Man. lib. xxviii. c. 4.] The lateness of the writer who notices these things, the manner in which he notices them, and, above all, the silcace of every preceIding writer, render them unworthy of consideration.
Acts, and in the Epistles, in no part bestows praise or eminence upon him. The name of Luke is mentioned only in Saint Paul's Epistles, and that very transiently. The judgment, there-positions in so many distinct sections, with the necessary authorities subjoined to each.*
fore, which assigned these writings to these authors proceeded, it may be presumed, upon proper knowledge and evidence, and not upon a voluntary choice of names,
The following, then, are the allegations upon the subject, which are capable of being established by proof:
to the present.
VI. Christian writers and Christian churches I. That the historical books of the New Tes appear to have soon arrived at a very general tament, meaning thereby the four Gospels and agreement upon the subject, and that without the the Acts of the Apostles, are quoted, or alluded interposition of any public authority.-When the to, by a series of Christian writers, beginning with diversity of opinion, which prevailed, and prevails those who were contemporary with the apostles, among Christians in other points is considered, or who immediately followed them, and proceedtheir concurrence in the canon of Scripture is re-ing in close and regular succession from their time markable, and of great weight, especially as it seems to have been the result of private and free inquiry. We have no knowledge of any interference of authority in the question, before the council of Laodicea in the year 363. Probably the decree of this council rather declared than regulated the public judgment, or, more properly speaking, the judgment of some neighbouring churches; the council itself consisting of no more than thirty or forty bishops of Lydia and the adjoining countries. t Nor does its authority seem to have extended further; for we find numerous Christian writers, after this time, discussing the question, "What books were entitled to be re-tians. ceived as Scripture," with great freedom, upon VI. That commentaries were written upon proper grounds of evidence, and without any re-them, harmonies formed out of them, different ference to the decision at Laodicea.
II. That when they are quoted, or alluded to, they are quoted or alluded to with peculiar respect, as books sui generis; as possessing an authority which belonged to no other books, and as conciusive in all questions and controversies amongst Christians.
copies carefully collated, and versions of them made into different languages.
to place before the reader, in one view, the propositions which comprise the several heads of our testimony, and afterwards to repeat the same pro
In a work, however, like the present, there is a difficulty in finding a place for evidence of this kind. To pursue the details of proofs throughout, would be to transcribe a great part of Dr. Lardner's eleven octavo volumes: to leave the argument without proofs, is to leave it without effect; for the persuasion produced by this species of evidence depends upon a view and induction of the particulars which compose it.
The method which I propose to myself is, first
* Col. iv. 14. 2 Tim. iv. 11. Philem. 24.
III. That they were, in very early times, collected into a distinct volume.
IV. That they were distinguished by appropriate names and titles of respect.
V. That they were publicly read and expounded in the religious assemblies of the early Chris
These considerations are not to be neglected: but of an argument concerning the genuineness of ancient writings, the substance, undoubtedly, and strength, is ancient testimony.
This testimony it is necessary to exhibit somewhat in detail; for when Christian advocates merely tell us, that we have the same reason for believing the Gospels to be written by the evangelists whose name they bear, as we have for helieving the Commentaries to be Caesar's, the Eneid Virgil's, or the Orations Cicero's, they content themselves with an imperfect representation. They state nothing more than what is true, but they do not state the truth correctly. In the number, variety, and early date of our testimonies, we far exceed all other ancient books. For one, which the most celebrated work of the most cele-ed of any other books claiming to be books of brated Greek or Roman writer can allege, we pro- Scripture; by which are meant those books which duce many. But then it is more requisite in our are commonly called apocryphal books of the New books, than in theirs, to separate and distinguish Testament them from spurious competitors. The result, I am convinced, will be satisfactory to every fair inquirer: but this circumstance renders an inquiry necessary.
XI. That these propositions cannot be affirm
VII. That they were received by Christians of different sects, by many heretics as well as catholics, and usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.
VIII. That the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of Saint Paul, the first Epistle of John, and the first of Peter, were received, without doubt, by those who doubted concerning the other books which are included in cur present canon.
IX. That the Gospels were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as books containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded.
X. That formal catalogues of authentic Scriptures were published; in all which our present sacred histories were included.
The historical books of the New Testament, meaning thereby the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, are quoted, or alluded to, by a series of Christian writers, beginning with those who were contemporary with the apostles, or who immediately followed them, and proceeding in close and regular succession from their time to the present.
*The reader, when he has the propositions before him, will observe that the argument, if he should omit the sections, proceeds connectedly from this point.