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UNCORRUPTED PRESERVATION, AUTHENTICITY,
THE Sacred Volume, which we term THE BIBLE, (0 BIBAOZ,) or THE BOOK, by way of eminence, consists of two grand parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament; containing conjointly a vast variety of very different compositions, historical, poetical, and judicial, moral, preceptive, and prophetical, written at various times by different persons, and afterwards collected into a volume.
On the Genuineness of the Sacred Scriptures.
THAT these books are genuine, that is, were written by those persons whose names they bear, we have the most satisfactory evidence; and have no more reason to doubt, than that the histories which we have under the names of HERODOTUS, XENOPHON, or TACITUS, were written by those authors. For,
1. The books of the Old Testament have always been received as genuine by the Jews, and those of the New Testament by Christians, from the earliest period to the present time; and, in addition to the earlier books being
cited or alluded to by subsequent sacred writers, we have ample evidence afforded of the genuineness of the Old Testament by Jewish Translators and Writers, and of that of the New, by a regular succession of Christian Writers, who quote or allude to a number of passages as we now read them, from the times of the Apostles to the present hour; nor was their genuineness ever impugned by the most determined and acute Jewish or heathen adversaries, or heretics.
2. The language and style of writing, both in the Old and New Testaments, prove them to have been composed at the time and by the persons to whom they are ascribed. Their diversity of style proves them to have been the work of various authors; and competent Hebrew scholars have shewn, that the difference of character and style of the language of the Old Testament, as well as the introduction of certain foreign words, can only be accounted for by the supposition that they were composed at different and distant periods, and by the authors to whom they are attributed; while the Greek, in which the New Testament is written, which is intermixed with many Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Latin words and idioms, accords only with the time, situation, country, and circumstances, of the persons to whom it is ascribed.
3. The moral impossibility of their being forgeries is an additional evidence of their genuineness; for, it is impossible to establish forged writings as genuine in any place where there are persons strongly inclined, and well qualified, to detect the fraud. Now, if the books of the Old Testament be forgeries, they must have been invented either by Gentiles, Jews, or Christians. But they could not have been invented by the Gentiles, because they were alike ignorant of the history and sacred rites of the Hebrews, who most unquestionably would never have given their approbation to writings invented by them, nor yet to any fabrications of
been forged, as they were extant long before the Christian name had any existence; and it is equally certain that they were not invented by the Jews, because they contain various difficult laws and precepts, and relate all their idolatries, crimes, and punishments, which would not have been inserted if they had been forged by them. Equally impossible is it, that the books of the New Testament were forged; for the Jews were the most violent enemies of Christianity: they put its founder to death; and both Jews and Gentiles persecuted his disciples with implacable hatred. Hence, if the New Testament had been forged, the Jews would certainly have detected the imposture; and the inhabitants of Palestine would not have received the Gospels, nor the churches of Rome and Corinth acknowledged the epistles addressed to them, if they had not had sufficient evidence of their genuineness. In fact, these arguments are so strong, that if we deny the genuineness of the Sacred Writings, we may, with a thousand times more propriety, reject all the other writings in the world as spurious.
On the Uncorrupted Preservation of the Sacred Scriptures.
THAT the Sacred Writings are not only genuine, but have been transmitted to us entire and uncorrupted, and that they are, in all essential points, the same as they came originally from the hands of their authors, we have the most satisfactory evidence that can be required. That, in the various transcripts of these writings, as in all other ancient books, a few letters, syllables, or even words, may have been changed, we do not pretend to deny; but that there has been any designed or fraudulent corruption of any considerable part, especially of any doctrine, or important part of history or prophecy, no one has ever attempted to prove.
1. With regard to the Old Testament, the original manu
scripts were long preserved among the Jews, who were always remarkable for being most faithful guardians of their sacred books, which they transcribed repeatedly, and compared most carefully with the originals, of which they even numbered the words and letters. That the Jews have neither mutilated nor corrupted these writings, is fully proved by the silence of the prophets, as well as of Christ and his apostles, who, though they bring many heavy charges against them, never once accuse them of corrupting one of their sacred writings; and also by the agreement, in every essential point, of all the versions and manuscripts (amounting to nearly 1150,) which are now extant, and which furnishes a clear proof of their uncorrupted preservation. In fact, the constant reading of their sacred books, (which were at once the rule of their faith, and of their political constitution,) in public and private; the numerous copies of the original, as well as of the Septuagint version, which was widely spread over the world; the various sects and parties into which the Jews were divided after their canon was closed; as well as their dispersion into every part of the globe, concurred to render any attempt at fabrication improbable and impossible before the time of Christ; and after that period, the same books being in the hands of the Christians, they would instantly have detected the fraud of the Jews, if they had endeavoured to accomplish such a design; while the silence of the Jews, (who would not have failed to notice the attempt if it had been made,) is a clear proof that they were not corrupted by the Christians.
2. Equally satisfactory is the evidence for the integrity and incorruptness of the New Testament. The multiplication of copies, both of the original, and of translations into a variety of foreign languages, which were read, not only in private, but publicly in the religious assemblies of the early Christians; the reverence of the Christians for these writings; the variety of sects and heresies which soon arose in the Christian church, each of whom appealed to the
material alteration in the sacred books utterly impossible; while the silence of their acutest enemies, who would most assuredly have charged them with the attempt if it had been made, and the agreement of all the manuscripts and versions extant, are positive proofs of the integrity and incorruptness of the New Testament; which are further attested by the agreement with it of all the quotations which occur in the writings of the Christians from the earliest age to the present time. In fact, so far from there having been any gross adulteration in the Sacred Volumes, the best and most able critics have asserted and proved that, even in lesser matters, the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament have suffered less from the injury of time, and the errors of transcribers, than any other ancient writings whatever; and that the very worst manuscript extant would not pervert one article of our faith, nor destroy one moral precept.
On the Authenticity of the Sacred Scriptures.
It is no less certain that the Sacred Writings are authentic, that is, relate matters of fact as they really happened; and consequently, that they are entitled to the fullest credit, and possess the greatest authority. For,
1. The Sacred Writers had the very best means of information, and could not be deceived themselves. They were, for the most part, contemporary with, and eye-witnesses of the facts they record; and those transactions which they did not see, they derived from the most certain evidences, and drew from the purest sources. Thus, in the four last books of the Pentateuch, Moses had a chief concern in all the transactions there related; and the authors of the subsequent historical books, as Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, as well as the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and