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recourse to the other question, when we want to establish, whether this deference be due to any certain specified book, whether in or out of our present scriptures. The two questions of the inspiration and the canon stand related to each other as do the members of the following syllogism. -All scripture is given by inspiration of God: The book of Proverbs is part of scripture: Therefore the book of Proverbs is given by inspiration of God. It is by rightly determining the general question of the inspiration, that we are enabled to state rightly the major proposition. The minor proposition is determined by the canon.
2. The evidence, then, on which the canonicity of any book in scripture rests, is clearly an external evidence that is external, if not to the whole Bible, at least to the particular book in question. We derive our information and belief of its place in scripture, from the testimony of others beside its own author,—from the various references which can be found to it whether scriptural or exscriptural—from the authority of ancient catalogues -or, lastly, from the concurrence, both of Jews and Christians, even to this present day, in its favour. Now all these proofs for the canon of the Old Testament are clearly external; and that evidence is still more palpably so by which we establish the canon of the New Testament. When we look to the goodly succession of those testimonies, which have determined the canon of these later scriptures—we find that one and all of them are external; and this character applies to each distinct head of argument given on this subject by Dr. Paley. Let us exhibit them in order, oply extending what he says of the historical to all the books of the New Testament. * Ist. The books of the New Testament, 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." “2d, When the seriptures are quoted or alluded to, they are quoted with peeuliar respect, as books sui generis ; as possessing an authority which belonged to no other books, and as conclusive in all questions and controversies amongst Christians." "3d, The scriptures were in very early times collected into a distinct volume." “ 4th, Our present sacred writings were soon distinguished by appropriate names and titles of respect.” 5th, Our scriptures were publicly read and expounded in the religious assemblies of the early Christians.” “6th, Commentaries were anciently written upon the scriptures; harmonies formed out of them; different copies carefully collated ; and versions made of them into different languages.” “7th, Our scriptures were received by ancient Christians of different sects and persuasions, by many heretics as well as catholics, and were usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.” “8th, The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen epistles of St. Paul, the first epistle of John, and the first of Peter, were received without doubt hy those who doubted concerning the other books
Our historical scriptures were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded. ”
10th, Formal catalogues of authentic scriptures were published, in all of which our present sacred histories were included, till at length when the information respecting them had spread sufficiently, and their claims were acknowledged throughout the church at large, all our present New Testament scriptures were included also.” These propositions cannot be predicated of any of those books which are commonly called apocryphal books of the New Testament.”—The reader will not fail to perceive that each of these considerations forms an external argument, or bears upon it the character of external evidence for the canon of the Old Testament.
3. But many writers, in arguing whether for the canonical rank or the inspiration of particular books, have appealed to internal evidence also. That is, over and above the statement which the author makes of a supernatural communication which he had received from God, they appeal to the scriptural quality of the communication itself. They reason for its being a divine production, from the nature of the product; as if it were competent for man to discern such characters of truth and majesty and sacredness in the work itself, as bespeak the high and heavenly origin from which it has descended. They seem as if shut up unto this conclusion by a sort of felt necessity—as if the common people, who should have a reason also for the hope that is in them, and are utter strangers to the erudition of the external argument, must have access to the knowledge and belief of the inspiration of each particular book in some other way. And, as it is not any thing without the book which forms their reason; it is imagined, if they have found a reason at all, they must find it in the book. There are several writers on the canon of scripture, who appear to have reduced themselves to this conclusion, by the manner in which they had urged the vital and fundamental importance of a well-grounded belief, in the scriptural authority of every book that we receive as scripture. And as the unlearned are ignorant of the external, there seems no other resource left for them, than that they must be guided and determined, in the homage which they render to the divine authority of any book, by the internal evidence. And accordingly, it has been argued of these pious and unlearned believers, that, in the perusal of scripture, they have the taste and discernment of its inspired quality—in virtue of which, they could make distinction for example, between the Book of Proverbs as the genuine progeny of inspiration, and the Book of Wisdom or the Book of Ecclesiasticus as not so.
4. These writers seem to have involved themselves in a dilemma, or at least to have outrun the convictions of the intelligent in their speculations on this subject. To us it appears palpably incompetent for a reader, either learned or unlearned, to discriminate between all the genuinely scriptural, and all the apocryphal books in this way.
at again, it is quite as obvious of the great
majority of Christians, that neither have they sought for satisfaction in the other way, or by the study of the external evidence. Between the one and the other, it remains a question for solutionwhether there be any real or rational ground of evidence for the faith of the common people.
5. This question, substantially at least if not in one particular form, was much agitated in the days of the reformation. Papists of course affirmed that the power of determination between canonical and apocryphal scriptures, lay with the Pope or council; and that the people at large had no other way of distinguishing between them, than by the decrees of the church. The champions of protestantism, in opposing such a high pretension of authority over the faith of the people in this question, behoved to find out a principle, on which the people might determine it for themselves. It is obvious, that, if the scriptural authority of any particular book was made exclusively to rest on the testimonies of ancient times, they were only the learned who could be satisfied of this at first hand; and still, as before, the few had to tell the many what books they were to receive as inspired, and what they were to reject. This had the appearance of Popery in another form, inasmuch as the great bulk of the people still believed, or at least acquiesced, in certain books as scriptures, at the dictation of others : And, to exalt the authority of private judgment over all other authority, it seemed necessary to find out some other principle than the historical evidence, on which it might be competent for all to form their own independent