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[Ess. 1. may be sure that he was the author also of the other twelve Epistles inscribed with his name ; since they are all written in the same inimitable manner ; all display the same extraordinary mind; and, with respect to the mode of thought, of argument, and of practical application, are generally cast in the same peculiar mould.
On a reference to the principal points adverted to in the present Essay, it will be observed: first, that, from a fair view of the attributes of God and of the condition of man, there arises a strong antecedent probability of such an especial revelation of divine truth as Christianity professes to be. Secondly, that the introduction of the Christian revelation into the world is a matter of undisputed history, and that the substance of it is contained in the New Testament. Thirdly, that this volume, deserving as it is of the regard and attention of all men, from its intrinsic excellence, professes to have been written by six of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and two of their companions. Fourthly, that, in the early part of the fourth century, at a time when the New Testament was very largely disseminated in the church of Christ, the bulk of it
“confessed by all to be genuine,” and that the same character was soon afterwards, with equal unanimity, attributed to its remaining parts. Fifthly, that its genuineness is amply evinced by a variety of both external and internal evidences, viz :-innumerable quotations in the writings of the early fathers ; cata. logues, harmonies, and commentaries; early versions into foreign dialects; the testimony of heretics and of heathen enemies; the peculiarity of the language in which it is written; the correct allusions contained in it to the customs which prevailed, and to the events which occurred, during the age of Christ and his apostles; and, lastly, the reciprocal accordances of its several parts.
15 Now, I conceive that, the more we examine these evidences, and make them the subject of our reflection, the more ready shall we be to adopt the opinion of Paley and other authors, that, in point of number, extent, variety, and harmony, they are far superior to those which can be brought to bear on any ancient classical book whatsoever. If, then, we entertain no doubt that the Cyropædia is the work of Xenophon; the Æneid, of Virgil; the Tusculan Disputations, of Cicero; and the Gallic Commentaries, of Cæsar; much less have we any reason to hesitate in receiving the New Testament, as the production of the evangelists and apostles.
Here, perhaps, the inquiry may be suggested, what appearance of evidence is it probable could have been produced in favor of the books of the New Testament, had they been really spurious ? This inquiry may be answered by an appeal to facts. We are actually in possession of spurious Gospels, spurious acts of Paul, and spurious Epistles, purporting to be written by Christ or his followers. It is probable that these wretched forgeries were produced during the second, third, and fourth, centuries of the Christian era; and the first production of some of them is matter of history. Now, they are not once alluded to by the fathers of the first century. By those of the three next centuries they are seldom cited : when cited, they are never adduced as Scripture, and are sometimes expressly declared to be destitute of all authority. They were the subjects of no commentaries. They were uniformly excluded from the canons of sacred books. They were written in a style totally differing from that of the New Testament, though unskilfully copied from it in parts : and lastly, they abound in absurdities, contradictions, anachronisms, trifling ridiculous details, and narrations even of an immoral ten
Text of New Testament. [Ess. i. dency. While, therefore, these spurious productions afford a proof of the antecedent existence of those books which they so irreverently mimic, the inherent and extrinsic circumstances appertaining to their character and history may serve to show us how matters would have stood with the New Testament, had it also been spurious; and the absolute genuineness of that pure and unsophisticated volume is rendered more than ever manifest by the contrast: see Horne's Intr., vol. i, p. 717. Jones on the Canon.5
Finally, while it is thus abundantly evident that the New Testament is the genuine work of the evangelists and apostles, we have every reason to believe that its text, as we have long been accustomed to read it, is substantially correct and uncorrupted. The early multiplication of copies among persons of so many different characters and situations, and, in process of time, of such various religious persuasions, while it would naturally give rise to a vast number of unimportant various readings, afforded a sure check against the corruption or wilful alteration of the sacred text. The copies thus early made and disseminated may be
5 The aprocryphal Gospels and Epistles, now extant, form but a small proportion of that mass of absurd and irreligious forgery which was poured forth by the wilder sects of heretics during the second, third, and fourth, centuries. The very fact, that almost the whole of these productions have long since been lost and forgotten, while the canonical books have, in all ages of the Christian church, been received and carefully preserved, affords, in itself, a sufficient evidence of the spuriousness of the former, and of the genuineness of the latter. The ancient fathers were accustomed to cite these spurious works, for the purpose of showing that, in point of learning, they were on a par with their opponents. When speaking of the forged Gospels, Origen, after distinguishing them from the four genuine ones, writes as follows :—" Legimus ne quid ignorare videremur, propter eos qui se putant aliquid scire, si ista cognoverint:" Hom. in Luc. i, 1. So also Ambrose, “ Legimus ne legantur (ab aliis ;) legimus ne ignoremus; legimus non ut teneamus, sed ut repudiemus, et ut sciamus qualia sint in quibus magnifici isti cor exultant suum ;" Com. in Luc. i, 1. Jones on the Canon, vol. i, 129.
17 regarded as the precursors and prototypes of those very numerous manuscripts of the New Testament which are still preserved. These therefore form one proper criterion for the final settlement of its text. Other criteria, of no less efficacy and importance, are found in the ancient versions of that volume, and in the multitudinous extracts from it, transfused into the pages of the early fathers. Now, the whole of these criteria have been applied by a succession of modern critics, with astonishing industry and great discrimination; and the result of their labors is this—that the Greek Testament, as it was read by the earliest reformers, and translated by the authors of our common English version, continues unimpaired, and, with very few exceptions of any moment, unaltered. It has not been deprived of a single doctrinal truth, of a single historical narration, of a single moral precept.
. ESSAY II.
ON THE CREDIBILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, AND ON THE
EVIDENCE OF MIRACLES.
HAVING considered the evidences which prove with so much clearness that the New Testament is the genuine work of some of the apostles and their companions,we may proceed to the examination, and I trust, to the proof, of two additional propositions---namely, first, that the history related in it is true, and therefore, secondly, that Christianity is of divine origin.
When we read the history of past transactions, as they have been recorded by Thucydides, Livy, or Tacitus, we do not hesitate in receiving such history as authentic, because we have no reason to doubt the general veracity and accuracy of these authors, and because the events which they relate are for the most part such as frequently take place, and are in themselves easily credible. Neither should we feel any difficulty in receiving the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, respecting the circumstances which form the subjects of their several narratives, had not many of those circumstances been of a directly miraculous nature, and therefore at variance with the common course of our experience. The question immediately arises, whether the veracity of the sacred historians is so far confirmed by collateral considerations, as to overcome, in the mind of the candid reasoner,