« PreviousContinue »
in order to attract general attention; then went on enumerating all the eatooas of Otaheite, Eimeo, and the Society Isles; next the districts and their chiefs in regular order; and lastly, the ships and their commanders, from Wallis, Bougainville and Cook, down to the Duff and her captain; concluding with the formal surrender of the district of Mattavai; observing that we might take what houses, trees, fruits, hogs, &c. we thought proper. This strange speech was delivered very deliberately by the old priest, who, while he spoke, sat in an odd posture, half bent upon his heels, holding with one hand the rope, and frequently scratching his head and rubbing his eyes with the other. These peculiarities were caught by his mimicking countrymen, who afterwards turned them into humourous pantomime.”
THE BIBLE, AN OLD BOOK.
[Being a popular attempt to shew the antiquity of Scripture, in a letter from a father to his son.]
MY DEAR WILBERFORCE,-You tell me that it has lately been your misfortune to hear the validity of the Holy Scriptures assailed, without being able to offer what you considered any good arguments in refutation of the charges brought against them. I perfectly understand the nature of the insinuations to which you refer, from my having been in a similar manner beset by the enemies of revelation, when on a visit to that part of the country to which you refer. If I may conjecture what you have not very fully expressed, I should suppose, from your letter, that the opponents of the Bible have been bringing forward various illustrations of its symbols, rites, facts, and doctrines, from what they call "heathen antiquity;" and then, assuming that the inspired writers borrowed these things from paganism, have denounced all religions, as alike founded in priestcraft and delusion.
In attempting, my dear boy, to arm you for the warfare in which it is likely you may be engaged, I might say much about the folly of supposing for a moment that the pure and perfect word of God could be in any way borrowed from the silly, incon
sistent, contradictory, obscene fables of heathenism: but I would rather, for the present, allow the question to turn solely upon the point of superior antiquity; for you will see at once that if I succeed in shewing the Bible to be many centuries older than the oldest of these profane traditions, it will be quite evident that it cannot be borrowed from them.
We know that the heathens have their fragments of pretended revelations at the present day, but when they came into being, we are not informed at all. Nothing approaching to proof that they are even a thousand years old has ever been adduced, and until this can be done, you have no reason to fear any ill consequences to Christianity. I trust that you are grateful (as I am anxious to be) that we who profess the gospel are differently situated. We have not followed cunningly devised fables. All that I think you need ask at present of your infidel assailants, is that they would give you as connected a chain of evidence for the antiquity of their dogmas, as you will find can be brought forward in favor of the Bible; you will not expect that it should be perfect, especially as my time and space are limited, but such as it is, I am much mistaken if it be not infinitely more complete than anything they can adduce in behalf of their statements.
The evidence, my dear Wilberforce, to which I shall direct your attention is of two kinds-outward and inward. You know what is meant by outward evidence; it is evidence collected from extraneous and independent sources to the truth of any particular document or testimony. When a will, for instance, is proved, the witnesses to the signing of that will, attest it to be a genuine document, signed, sealed, and delivered by the testator. When the character of any individual is implicated in an action at law, witnesses are called to state all they know about it, and prove whether or not the assumption is correct. This is outward evidence-it is one man's testimony to another, or to some deed or instrument which he has uttered. The question then is, have we any evidence of this kind relative to the Bible? Decidedly we have; though owing to the great antiquity of the Old Testament, this part of our testimony is less satisfactory than the other. Infidels are very ready to throw down the gauntlet, and say, "Bring up your heathen writers who confirm the Bible, and we
will listen to them!" But this they know to be a cowardly and disingenuous taunt, for we have no heathen writers, except mythologists and poets, (whose very business it was to propagate falsehood,) until the time of Herodotus, just as the lamp of Old Testament prophecy was flashing in the socket, preparatory to its utter extinction in the days of Malachi. And yet we are not left altogether without witness to the truth of the early Scriptures, since the existing monuments of Egypt and other countries supply a variety of illustrations to the minute fidelity of the inspired writings.
We have, moreover, a cloud of witnesses-hostile, heathen, and Jewish, to say nothing of Christian writers, (whom your opponents will of course charge with partiality,) proving the existence of the New Testament, and the actual occurrence of many of the events it records, cotemporary with, and immediately following the apostolic times; the Jewish Talmuds speak of the birth, miracles, and cruel death of Christ, and Josephus, in a passage which has been questioned for no other reason than its plainness, refers to "the Christ" by name. Tacitus, the Roman historian, says that the Christians were so named from Christus, who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate. Suetonius, Martial, Juvenal, Pliny the younger, the emperor Hadrian, and others, speak of the persecutions and sufferings of the Christians. Celsus, in the second; Porphyry, in the third; and the emperor Julian, in the fourth centuries, set themselves to refute the books of the Christians, by which it is incontrovertibly evident from the quotations cited, and the doctrines held up to ridicule, they meant the New Testament; and as Chrysostom shrewdly remarks of the first,-"it is presumed they did not oppose writings that were published since their times."
Now the New Testament so repeatedly and unequivocally recognizes not only the existence of the Old, but its divine authority, that the external proofs which apply to the former, conduce indirectly to establish the claims of the latter.
Let us now, my dear Wilberforce, turn our attention to the inward evidence to the antiquity of the Scriptures. If you look at the title page of your Bible, (it was the gift of your dear mother!) you may read as follows,—
OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS,
translated out of
THE ORIGINAL TONGUES,
THE FORMER TRANSLATIONS, DILIGENTLY COMPARED
There are "former translations," then, of this invaluable book: I have one now before me, the printing of which appears to have been completed at Basle, on the 6th November, 1495. It is in a fine, small, black letter, with the initials painted in by hand, and contains a rude wood-cut of St. Jerome in the act of translating it according to the superscription—Sanctus Hieronymus interpre's biblie. Now Jerome lived about 1400 years ago, and his translation, which is in latin, and called the Vulgate, is full of errors it is, in fact, the version upon which the papists rest their creed, and is consequently notoriously corrupt. You will not be surprised at this, when you remember that St. Paul predicts in the early times of the Christian church, a falling away from the apostolic faith, and the revelation of that man of sin, the son of perdition, whose characteristics are precisely those of popery and the pope. Nay, he tells us, in writing to the Thessalonians, that this mystery of iniquity was already at work, and thus prepares us for the "deadly mixture of gospel and opinion" which we find in the Vulgate of Jerome. So that prophecy, looking forward a few centuries, anticipates the interpolations and corruptions of the Vulgate, which though rife with errors, still turns its backward glance upon the writings of the prophets, evangelists, and apostles.
A book, before it can be corrupted, must have existed in a more genuine form; and hence, had we no other evidence to the antiquity of the Scriptures, we should be compelled to admit that they were in existence before the days of Jerome. How long the vitiating process may have been in operation, it is not easy to determine, but it is no unfair assumption to suppose that it was gradual, extending over a period, perhaps, of two or three
centuries, and thus taking us back to the days of the apostles themselves.
But let me, as I proposed, endeavor from the Bible itself to trace back its own history. In this early printed copy of the Vulgate, Jerome, as I have already stated, is seated in his cave at Bethlehem, according to tradition. Before him stands the work upon which he is engaged-a Bible opened at the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, and having his translation into latin on the right hand page-" In p'pio creavit Deus celu' and ter" " in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. On the opposite, or left-hand page, the text, though forming part of the Hebrew Scriptures, is in Greek-"Ev apn TOINσE”. in the beginning, made. He is therefore translating from a translation; so that the Old Testament, in the Greek language, was extant before his time; indeed it is well known that "the Greek Scriptures were the only Scriptures known to, or valued by the Greeks." "From this fountain," observes Dr. Lamb, (Hebrew char. 141,) "the stream was derived to the Latin church, first by the Italic or Vulgate translation of the Scriptures, which was made from the Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew; and, secondly, by the study of the Greek fathers." We have another proof of this fact, far stronger, and, because it is internal, or derivable from the Bible itself, more apposite to my purpose. The inspired and infallible writers of the New Testament, have, in very many passages quoted the Greek version of the Old Testament. This version, as I have just hinted, is not only wellknown as the Septuagint; but the date, the plan, the object, and the circumstances attending its translation into Greek, are matters of authentic history. It was made in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, about 300 years before the Christian era, so that the Hebrew Scriptures, which furnished the basis of that work, must have existed still earlier.
We have thus, my dear boy, approached within a short period of the later writers of the Old Testament; and on critically examining the ancient manuscripts ascribed to them, we find interspersed among the Hebrew, many passages in Chaldee, a dialect differing from the Hebrew, as the Spanish does from the Latin, or the Doric from the Attic among the Greeks. These passages occur more plentifully in the books of Ezra and Daniel