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numerable 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. If we suppose that the four Gospels gave the first account of those things, and yet were not heard of till some generations had passed away from the era which they assign to the events that they record, it is impossible that they could anywhere have been received as authentic writings of the companions or contemporaries of Christ. Could the inhabitants of all Syria, of the principal cities of Greece, and of the overgrown capital of the empire, have, by means of forged books, been persuaded, that great numbers of themselves and their ancestors had, from generation to generation, been baptized in “ the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” and accustomed to meet, every first day of the week, to offer up prayers and praises to Christ, and to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, when Christ, baptism, and the Lord's Supper, had never been heard of till the appearance of those books 2 Surely the most credulous man on earth would have rejected such an impudent forgery with scorn. We have seen (a) how impossible it would be to forge such a code as the Mosaic law, and impose it as ancient and authentic on a single nation; but, were there degrees of impossibility, it would be still more impossible to forge such books as the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and impose them upon a variety of nations, the most highly polished and enlightened of all antiquity. These books represent, as universally known from the era of the emperor Tiberius, and not barely as known, but as very generally adopted, a religion which was in fact never heard of till their appearance; and, on the supposition of forgery, not one individual or one nation only, but the inhabitants of Rome, Athens, Corinth, Antioch, Damascus, the very seats of science; and all Judea, of which the inhabitants possessed a revelation of their own, and were extremely averse to any other, received this fiction as true, in opposition to the evidence of their own senses : As this is utterly impossible, the four Gospels, together with the Acts of the Apostles, must be authentic, and the facts recorded in them, whether natural or supernatural, must have happened just as the authors of these books relate that they happened; but if the facts be admitted, the doctrines must likewise be admitted not barely as true, but as a revelation from heaven, for as such they were preached by their authors; and no man ever has been, or ever will be, enabled by the God of truth to work a real miracle in support of falshood. 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. “The apostles, as Michaelis justly observes (b), frequently allude, in their epistles, to the gift of miracles, which they had communicated to the Christian converts by the imposition of hands, in confirmation 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
(a) Introduction to the History of the Old Testament. (b) Introduction te the New Testa. ment, chap. ii. sect. 1.
had likewise communicated to them the same extraordinary endowments. Or if we can suppose any human being to have possessed sufficient affrontery 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). 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 present 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 (b). 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 chief are miracles and the gifts of the Holy Ghost (c). 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 nor received the other,” (d)—nay, if many members had not witnessed both the performance of the miracles, and the effusions of the Holy Ghost 2 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—fxiša Jazz-by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren ;” i.e. all the Christians of the community (e). 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 fathers, ever heard of this epistle, till now that Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus
(a) Acts. xvii. 2. (b) Ib. 5–10. (c) 1. Thess. i. 5–10. See Hardy's Greek Testament, Whitby on the place, with Schleusner and Parkhurst's Lexicons on the word 2wauis, (d) Marsh's translation of Michaelis's Introduction, &c. chap. ii, sect. 1. (e) See the Supple
mentary Dissertation, &c. p. 360 of this Volume.
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. “In the same manner, St Paul attempting to convince the Galatians, who had departed from the purity of the Gospel, that it was necessary to abolish the Mosaic law, proposes the following questions (a)—Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?—He that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ? (b) That St Paul had preached the Gospel to the Galatians, and delivered to them the apostolical decrees respecting the things necessary to be laid on the Gentile converts, before he wrote his epistle to them, is evident both from the epistle itself, and from the account of his travels in the Acts of the Apostles. He seems likewise to have been the chief instrument employed in their conversion; and therefore there can be no doubt but that it is of himself he says—“He that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?” “But would an impostor, endowed with that degree of judgment which was requisite to the writing of this epistle, have appealed against the avowed enemies of the new religion, not only to miracles performed by himself, but to supernatural endowments imparted to the very persons to whom he wrote, if they could have replied—We are ignorant of these endowments, we understand not even what is meant by gifts of the Holy Ghost 2" Whilst St Paul was alive, no impostor could have acted in this manner; nor would such an epistle as this, if forged within a few years of his death (and we shall see by and bye, that none of the epistles written in his name could have been forged at a late period), have been received as authentic by any community, unless indeed all those gifts of the Spirit, appealed to by the forger, had been really bestowed on their fathers by the true St Paul. Every Galatian would have said, “We never heard our fathers say, that St Paul had bestowed such endowments on them or their fathers; we never heard them even speak of this epistle, which is now attempted to be imposed on us as having been addressed to them; and as it treats of matters of the highest importance to the purity of the faith, appealing to miracles wrought among them in support of its doctrine, it is impossible that they would, or indeed could, have concealed it until now. Surely some of our fathers would have mentioned to us their children a tract supported by such authority, and so important to unable us, as well as themselves, to “stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free.” (c) “The same apostle, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, (d) 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 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.” (e) If the
a) Gal. iii. 2, 5. b) Michaelis Ibid. (c) Gal. v. 1. d) Chap. xii. xiii. xix (a) (b) ) (d) Chat (e) Michaelis Ibid.
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.
Perhaps there is not one of St Paul's epistles which does not contain within itself references to some notorious fact, that prove with the force of demonstration, that the epistle is the genuine writing of the apostle, whose name it bears. There certainly is not one of them received into the canon of the New Testament. that contains not several incidents, which, when compared with the history of St Paul in the book called the Acts of the Apostles, furnish a complete proof of the genuineness of the epistle, and the authenticity of the history. This has been shewn by Dr Paley with a clearness and force of reasoning, to which I have not heard that infidelity has yet attempted to make a reply. To his ingenious and unrivalled work ", therefore, I refer the reader who wishes for further satisfaction, on a most important subject, than could be given to him in the compass of this Introduction even by Paley's ingenuity; and beg leave to observe, that the authenticity of no ancient book whatever has been so completely established by external evidence, as the authenticity of the tracts which compose the volume of the New Testament.
“Some of them, to use the words of the excellent author to whom I have just referred, are quoted or alluded to by every Christian writer that followed the apostles and evangelists—by Clement of Rome, by Hermas, by Ignatius, by Polycarp, disciples or contemporaries of the apostles; by Justin Martyr, by the churches of Gaul, by Irenaeus, by Athenagoras, by Theophilus, by Clement of Alexandria, by Hermias, by Tertullian, who occupied the succeeding age;” by Origen, by Cyprian, with his numerous correspondents, by Hippolitus, and by Victorinus of Petaw, who all flourished in the third century. And it is worthy of observation, that in the 76th (al. 85th.) of the canons called apostolical, which, though neither dictated by the apostles, nor written by Clement of Rome, are unquestionably very ancient f, the canonical books of the New Testament are thus enumerated.
* Entitled Horae Paulinae : or, the Truth of the Scripture History of St Paul, evinced by a comparison of the Epistles which bear his name, with the Acts of the Apostles, and with one another. I am not aware that, in the whole range of English literature, there is a single work in defence of the authenticity of any part of the Holy Scriptures, unless perhaps Leslie's Short Method with the Deists must be excepted, that, in the compass of a small volume, will give such perfect satisfaction to the ingenuous and attentive reader, as the Horae Paulinae.
+ It is in the highest degree probable that they were composed by several synods held in the decline
of the second and beginning of the third century. They are certainly referred to by Athanasius and Basil the Great, as ancient ecclesiastical canons, and are mentioned as such in several synods held in the fourth century, particularly in the famous council of Nice, and in that of Antioch. They are differently numbered by different editors; that which is by Cotelerius and Mr Johnson reckoned the seventy-sixth, being in other editions numbered the eighty-fifth. I do not quote them as entitled to any other deference than what is due to so public a testimony to a matter of fact.
The four Gospels of
MATthew, MARK, LUKE, and John ;
Fourteen Epistles of PAUL; two of Peter;
Three of John ; one of JAMEs'; one of JUDE; and
Two Epistles of CleMENT ; together with
The Acts of The Apostles.
The council of Laodicea, which was held in the year 367, enumerates the canonical books of the New Testament thus: Four Gospels; Acts of the Apostles; seven Catholic Epistles; and fourteen of St Paul, which are recited in the order in which they stand in our English Bibles.
The mere English reader will be surprised to find two epistles by Clement of Rome enumerated among the canonical books of the New Testament in the apostolical canon, and the Apocalypse omitted both in that canon and by the council of Laodicea. The fact with respect to the epistles of Clement seems to have been simply this; that they were held in very high estimation, especially the first, by the church of Corinth, to which it was addressed; that they were transmitted by that church to others; that the first was universally so much esteemed, as to be publicly read in the assemblies of the faithful, just as we still read the books called the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus; and that both epistles, from this circumstance, came to be written in the same volume with the inspired writings, as the Apocryphal books of the Old Testament are still bound up in the same volume with the canonical books even in Protestant churches. The two epistles of Clement, if the fragment which remains of the second can be called an epistle, are of very unequal value; but they are both extant in the Alexandrian manuscript of the Bible in the British Museum, though it by no means follows, that either the transcriber of that manuscript, or even the author of the apostolical canon, held either of them of equal authority with the writings undoubtedly inspired.
The omission of the Apocalypse in both these canons is easily accounted for. The canon called apostolical begins thus *—“Let the following books be esteemed venerable and holy by you all, both of the clergy and laity: Of the Old Testament, &c.” From these words it appears that the authors of this canon intended to enumerate such books as might be generally read with advantage as well by the laity as by the clergy; and hence we find them, about the middle of the canon, recommending—not as of equal authority with the Sacred books of the Old Testament which they had just enumerated, but as something besides them (#2%, , )—The Wisdom of the learned Sirach to be studied by youth—undoubtedly as moral lessons. Hence too at the end of the canon they enjoin the bishops to study the book called the Apostolical Constitutions f: but not to publish it to all, on account of the mysteries (warnfig) which it contains. For the same