Page images
PDF
EPUB

the art of forging historical writingss the most difficult of all others, was brought to the greatest perfection all at once, a supposition that cannot be admitted. Indeed, there does not appear to have been the least suspicion of the forgery of any books till after the time in which all those of the Old Testament are well known to have been extant. There cannot, therefore, be any reasonable doubt but that the books ascribed not only to Moses, but those to the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, are genuine, except so far as they may have suffered by tranfcribers.

The objection of Porphyry to the book of Daniel, that it was written after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (for which it does not appear that he had any other evidence than the exact fulfilment of some part of his prophecies in the events) is certainly not to be regarded. It can derive no more weight from the time in which he wrote than if it had been first advanced at this day, because it is only an argument from what appears on the face of the book itself, which is before us, as it was before him. And at that time the evidence of the whole Jewish nation, which had always received that book, and in fact that of the Samaritans too, who, as far as appears, never objected to it, was against him.

It is moreover self-evident, and indeed never was denied, that the books of the Old Testament were written by different persons, and at different times. That any number of them should have been written by the same person, or a combination of persons, and imposed upon a whole nation as written in former times, and by different persons in those times (especially considering the many ungrateful truths contained in these books), is an hypothesis which no person will say is even possible. Consequently, the references to particular books from others, may safely be admitted as an evidence of their genuineness, which is the principal argument for the age, and the genuinenets, of all other ancient writings. Now it appears from the books of Kings and Chronicles, that Isaiah lived in the time of Hezekiah, and from the same that Jeremiah lived at the time of the siege of Je. rusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which is abundantly evident from his own writings. The narrative part of the book of Jeremiah is rea

S 2

markably

markably circumftantial, so as to render its internal evidence unquestionable. I do not even think it possible for any person of the least degree of judgment in these matters to entertain a suspicion of its being a forgery of a later time. Jeremiah is also mentioned in the book of Daniel. Such too is the internal evidence for the genuinenefs of the book of Ezekiel, who makes mention of Daniel, of that of Daniel too, and of all the other

prophetical books, in which there is any mention of or allusion to historical facts.

A circumstance which adds to the authenticity of the writings of Moses is, that the solemn customs and religious rites of the Jews, such as their public festivals, and especially the observance of the pafsover, were coeval with them, so that they, as it were, vouch for each other. The paffover was a folemn cuftom, expressly inftituted, in commemoration of the deliverance of the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, and began to be observed at the very time; so that, accompanied as it is with the written account of it, it is the most authentic of all records. No other event in history is so fully authenticated as this, except that of the death of

Christ,

Chrift, by a fimilar rite, viz. that of the Lord's Supper.

The early existence of the feet of the Samaritans affords a proof that the books of Moses have not undergone any material alteration from before the time of the Babylonish captivity. If Ezra, who collected the books after that event, had made any material alteration in them, the Samaritans, who were then extremely hostile to him, and to all who resided and worshipped at Jerufalem, would, no doubt, have exposed it. But in our Saviour's time, they had the fame respect for the books of Moses that the Jews themselves ever had, and this they have at this very day. It is probavle too, that they had the fame respect for the writings of the prophets, though they did not make use of them in their religious worship, and therefore had no copies of them; for they appear (Johu iv. 25) to have expected (a Meffiah, of whom there is no account but in the writings of the prophets..

There is similar evidence, internal and external, that the principal books of the New Testament, by which I mean the historical ones, and also that the epistles of Paul, were written while the events were recent, and

that quence

S 3.

that they were received as such, by those who were most interested in their contents. This was never questioned by any unbeliever, within several hundred years of the time of their publication. It was admitted by Celsus, and the emperor Julian, both of whom wrote against Christianity, and did not even question the truth of the greater part of the miracles recorded in them. And yet Mr. Paine, ignorant of this, asserts, in the second part of his Age of Reason, p. 83, that "there is not “ the least shadow of evidence who the pere “ sons were that wrote the books ascribed to “ Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John; that none “ of the books of the New Testament were « written by the men called apostles; and “ that there was no such book as the New Testament till more than three hundred years « after the time that Christ is said to have “ lived," that is, about the time of Constantine. On this supposition how stupendous a miracle must have been the overthrow of heathenism, and the general reception of Christianity, in the Roman empire at that period. This would have been far more extraordinary than all the miracles recorded in the scriptures. But to this obvious conse

« PreviousContinue »