Imágenes de páginas

"As little can we, with any degree of probability, ascribe it to David. His life was occupied with almost incessant troubles and warfare: and it is difficult to conceive, how a book written by that prince could, in the space of a very few years, be universally received as the inspired composition of Moses, when no person had ever previously heard that Moses left any legislative code behind him. "The Pentateuch might be more plausibly given to Samuel than to either of those two princes; but this supposition will not stand for a moment the test of rational enquiry. We shall still have the same difficulty to contend with as before we shall still have to point out, how it was possible that Samuel could persuade all Israel to adopt, as the inspired and authoritative Law of Moses, a mere modern composition of his own, which no person had ever previously heard of.

"We have now ascended to within less than four centuries after the exodus from Egypt, and the alleged promulgation of the Law from Mount Sinai : and, from Ezra to Samuel, we have found no person to whom the composition of the Pentateuch ean, with any shew of reason or probability, be assigned. The only, remaining question is, whether it can be thought to have been written during the three hundred and fifty-six years which elapsed between the entrance of the Israelites iuto Palestine, and the appointment of Saul to be King of Israel.

"Now, the whole history which we have of that period utterly forbids such a supposition. The Israelites, though perpetually lapsing into idolatry, are uniformly described as acknowledging the authority of a written Law of Moses; and this Law, from generation to generation, is stated to be the directory, by which the Judges governed the people. Thus, Samuel expressly refers to a well-known commandment of Jehovah, and to the divine legation of Moses and Aaron, in a speech which he made to the assembled Israelites. Thus, the man of God, in his prophetic threat to Eli, similarly refers to the familiar circumstance recorded in the Pentateuch, that the house of his ancestor had been chosen to the Pontificate out of all the tribes of Israel. Thus, when the nations are enumerated which were left to prove the people, it is said that they were left for this purpose, that it might be known whether the Israelites would hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. Thus, Joshua is declared to have written the book which bears his name, as a supplement to a prior book, which is denominated the book of the Law of God. Thus likewise, he specially asserts, that this book of the Law of God is the book of the Law of Moses; speaking familiarly of precepts, which are written in that book; represents himself as reading its contents to all the assembled people, so that none of them could be ignorant of its purport; and mentions his writing a copy of it in the presence of the children of Israel. And thus, finally, we hear of the original, whence that copy is professed to have been taken, in the volume of the Pentateuch itself; for we are there told, that Moses with his own hand wrote the words of THIS Law in a BOOK; and that he then commanded the Levites to take THIS BOOK of the Law. and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant, that it might be there for a witness in all succeeding ages against the Israelites, in case they should violate its precepts."-Abridged from Faber's Hora Mosaicæ.

Note B.-Page 128.

"In events so public and so signal, there was no room for mistake or deception. Of all the miracles recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, there is not one of which the evidence is so multiplied as that of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost; for it rests not on the testimony of those, whether many or few, who were all with one accord in one place. It is testified by all Jerusalem, and by the natives of regions far distant from Jerusalem; for there were then, says the historian, dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, ont of every nation under heaven; and when the inspiration of the disciples was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were all confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all

[ocr errors]

amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans? and how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.'

"It hath been objected by infidelity to the resurrection of Christ, that he ought to have appeared publicly, wherever he had appeared before his crucifixion : but here is a miracle displayed much farther than the resurrection of Christ could have been by his preaching openly, and working miracles for forty days in the temple and synagogues of Jernsalem, as he had done formerly; and this miracle is so connected with the resurrection, that if the Apostles speaking a variety of tongues be admitted, the resurrection of Jesus cannot be denied. In reply to those (probably the natives of Jerusalem,) who, imagining that the Apostles uttered gibberish, charged them with being full of new wine, St. Peter said, 'Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words; for these men are not druuken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and signs, and wonders, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.'

Thus, by the miraculous effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, were the resurrection and ascension of Christ proved to a variety of nations of Asia, Africa, and Europe, all the quarters of the globe which were then known, as completely as if he had actually appeared among that mixed multitude in Jerusalem, reproved the High Priest and council of the Jews for their unbelief and hardness of heart, and then ascended in their presence to heaven. They had such evidence as was incontrovertible, that St. Peter and the other Apostles were inspired by the Spirit of God; they could not but know, as every Theist admits, that the Spirit of God never was, nor ever will be, shed abroad to enable any order of men to propagate falsehood with success; one of those who, by this inspiration, were speaking correctly a variety of tongues, assured them, that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had slain, was raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God; and that the same Jesus had, according to his promise, shed abroad on the Apostles that which they both saw and heard. The consequence of all this, we are told, was, that three thousand of his audience were instantly converted to the faith, and the same day incorporated into the church by baptism.

"Would any in his senses have written a narrative of such events as these at the very time when they are said to have happened, and in any one of those countries, to the inhabitants of which he appeals as witnesses of their truth, if he had not been aware that their truth could not be called in question? Would any forger of such a book as the Acts of the Apostles, at a period near to that in which he relates that such astonishing events had happened, have needlessly appealed, for the truth of his narrative, to the people of all nations, and thus gone out of his way to furnish his readers with innumerable means of detecting his imposture? At no period, indeed, could forged books, such as the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, have been received as authentic, unless all the events which they record, whether natural or supernatural, had been believed, all the principal doctrines received, and all the rites of religion which they prescribe practised, from the very period at which they represent the Son of God as sojourning on earth, laying the foundation of his church, dying on a cross, rising from the dead, and ascending into heaven. This argument cannot, perhaps, be employed to prove the authenticity of all the Epistles which make so great a part of the New Testament; but it is certainly as applicable to some of them as it is to the Gospels, and the book called the Acts of the Apostles.

[ocr errors]

"The Apostles, as Michaelis justly observes,† frequently allude, in their Epistles, to the gift of miracles, which they had communicated to the Christian converts by the imposition of hands, in coufirmation of the doctrine delivered in their speeches and writings, and sometimes to miracles, which they themselves had performed. Now, if these Epistles are really genuine, the miracles referred to must certainly have been wrought, and the doctrines preached must have been divine; for no man in his senses would have written to large communities, that he had not only performed miracles in their presence, in confirmation of the divine origin of certain doctrines, but that he had likewise communicated to them the same extraordinary endowments. Or if we can suppose any human being to have possessed sufficient effrontery to write in this manner to any community, it is obvious that, so far from gaining credit to his doctrine by such assertions, if not known to be true, he would have exposed himself to the utmost ridicule and contempt, and have ruined the cause which he attempted to support, by such absurd conduct.

"St. Paul's first Epistle to the Thessalonians is addressed to a Christian church, which he had lately founded, and to which he had preached the Gospel only three Sabbath-days. A sudden persecution obliged him to quit this community before he had given to it its proper degree of consistence; and, what is of consequence in the presence instance, he was protected neither by the power of the magistrate nor the favour of the vulgar. A pretended wonder-worker, who has once drawn the populace to his party, may easily perform his exploits, and safely proclaim them. But this very populace, at the instigation of the Jews, had excited the insurrection, which obliged St. Paul to quit the town. He sends therefore to the Thessalonians, who had received the Gospel, but whose faith, he apprehended, might waver through persecution, authorities and proofs of his divine mission, of which authorities the first and the chief are miracles and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Is it possible, now, that St. Paul, without forfeiting all pretensions to common sense, could, when writing to a church which he had lately established, have spoken of miracles performed, and gifts of the Holy Ghost communicated, if no member of that church had seen the one, or received the other; nay, if many members had not witnessed both the performance, and the effusions of the Holy Ghost? But it is equally impossible that the Epistle, making this appeal to miracles and spiritual gifts, could have been received as authentic, if forged in the name of St. Paul, at any future period, during the existence of a Christian church at Thessalonica. In the two first chapters it represents its author and two of his companions as having been lately in that city, and appeals to the church for the manner in which they had conducted themselves while there, and for the zeal and success with which they had preached the Gospel, and it concludes with these awful words:-'I adjure you (oрkiw vμas) by the Lord, that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren; i. e. all the Christians of the community. Had St. Paul and Timotheus and Silvanus never been in Thessalonica, or had they conducted themselves in any respect differently from what they are said to have done in the two first chapters, these chapters would have convicted the author of this Epistle of forgery, at whatever time it had made its first appearance. Had they been actually there, and preached, and wrought miracles just as they are said to have done; and had some impostor, knowing this, forged the Epistle before us at a considerable distance of time, the adjuration at the end of it must instantly have detected the forgery. Every Thessalonian Christian of common sense would have said, 'How came we never to hear of this Epistle before? Its author represents himself and two of his friends as having converted us to the faith a very short time before it was written and sent to us, and he charges those to whom it was immediately sent in the most solemn manner possible, that they should cause it to be read to every one of us; no Christian in Thessalonica would, in a matter of this kind, have dared to disobey the authority of an Apostle, especially when enforced by so awful an adjuration; and yet neither we, nor our

+ Introduction to the New Testament. Chap. 2, sect 1.

1 Thess. i. 5-10. See Hardy's Greek Testament, Whitby on the Place, with Schleusner and Parkhurst's Lexicons on the word durauis.

fathers, ever heard of this Epistle, till now that Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus are all dead, and therefore incapable of either confirming or refuting its authenticity! Such an Epistle, if not genuine, could never have been received by any community.

"The same Apostle, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, corrects the abuse of certain spiritual gifts, particularly that of speaking divers kinds of tongues, and prescribes rules for the employment of these supernatural talents; he enters into a particular detail of them, as they existed in the Corinthian church; reasons on their respective worth and excellence, says that they were limited in their duration, that they were no distinguishing mark of divine favour, nor of so great importance as faith and virtue, the love of God, and charity to our neighbours. Now, if this Epistle was really written by St. Paul to the Corinthians, and they had actually received no spiritual gifts, no power, imparted by extraordinary means, of speaking foreign languages, the proper place to be assigned him were not among impostors, but among those who had lost their understanding. A Juggler may deceive by the dexterity of his hands, and persuade the ignorant and the credulous that more than human means are requisite for the performance of his extraordinary feats; but he will hardly persuade those whose understandings remain unimpaired, that he has likewise communicated to his spectators the power of working miracles, and of speaking languages which they had never learned, were they conscious of their inability to perform the one, or to speak the other. If the Epistle, therefore, was written during the life of St. Paul, and received by the Corinthian church, it is impossible to doubt, but that St. Paul was its author, and that among the Corinthians were prevalent those spiritual gifts of which he labours to correct the abuse. If those gifts were never prevalent among the Corinthian Christians, and this Epistle was not seen by them until the next age, it could not have been received by the Corinthian church as the genuine writing of the Apostle, because the members of that church must have been aware, that if those gifts, of which it speaks, had been really possessed, and so generally displayed by their fathers, as it represents them to have been, some of themselves would surely have heard their fathers mention them; and as the Epistle treats of some of the most important subjects that ever occupied the mind of man, the introduction of death into the world through Adam, and the resurrection of the dead through Christ, they must have inferred, that their fathers would not have secreted from them their children a treatise on topics so interesting to the whole human race." (Gleig's Edition of Stackhouse's History of the Bible. Vol. iii, Intro. p. 11, &c.)


The uncorrupted Preservation of the Books of Scripture.

THE Historical Evidence of the antiquity and genuineness of the books ascribed to Moses, and those which contain the History of Christ and the establishment of his religion, being thus complete, the integrity of the copies at present received is the point next in question.

With respect to the scriptures of the Old Testament; the list of Josephus, the Septuagint translation, and the Samaritan Pentateuch, are sufficient proofs that the books which are received by us as sacred, are the same as those received by the Jews and Samaritans long before the Christian era. For the New Testament; beside the quotations from almost all the books now included in that volume and references to them by name in the earliest Christian writers, catalogues of authentic scriptures were published at very early periods, which, says Dr. Paley, "though numerous and made in countries at a wide distance from one another, differ very little, differ in nothing material, and all contain the four Gospels.

"In the writings of Origen which remain, and in some extracts preserved by Eusebius, from works of his which are now lost, there are enumerations of the books of Scripture, in which the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are distinctly and honourably specified, and in which no books appear beside what are now received.(8) The date of Origen's works is A. D. 230.

"Athanasius, about a century afterwards, delivered a catalogue of the books of the New Testament in form, containing our Scriptures and no others; of which he says, • In these alone the doctrine of religion is taught; let no man add to them, or take any thing from them.'(9)

"About twenty years after Athanasius, Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, set forth a catalogue of the books of Scripture publicly read at that time in the church of Jerusalem, exactly the same as ours, except that the Revelation' is omitted.(1) "And, fifteen years after Cyril, the council of Laodicea


(8) Lard. Cred. vol. iii, p. 234 et seq. vol. viii. p. 196. (9) lb. vol. viii, p. 223. (1) Ib. p. 270.

« AnteriorContinuar »