Sidor som bilder

true, on the authority of these evidences alone.


Of the internal Traces of Authenticity

in the New Testament. - WHEN Lord Bolingbrokė, : in his Letters on History, is pointing out the neceffity of this study to a Theologian, he reproaches the defenders of Chriftianity, that they are accustomed to tranfcribe from each other, and thereby perpetuate the errors which have been inadvertently admitted, or the fallacies which have been purpofely contsived.

"Abbadie,” these are his own words, “ fays, in hiş famouş book, that the Gospel of St. Matthew is cited by Clemens, Bishop of Rome, a disciple of the apostles; that Barnabas cites it Letter V:-vol. ii. p. 349–351. of the 4to edit.


in his epistle; that Ignatius and Po lycarpe receive it; and that the fame fathers, that give testimony for Matthew, give it likewise for Mark.--If the fathers of the first century do mention some passages, that are agreeable to what we read in our Evangelists, will it follow that these fathers had the same gospels before them? To say so is a manifest abuse of History, and quite inexcusable in writers that knew, or should have known, that these fathers made use of other gospels, wherein such passages might be contained, or they might be preserved in unwritten tradition. Besides which I could almoft venture to affirm, that these fathers of the first century do not expressly name the gospels we have of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.” These assertions, which in some respects are well founded, render it of the greatest importance to every enlightened Chrifțian, carefully to examine the evidences

of of the ecclesiastical writers of the firft centuries on this subject. 1 In this inquiry we are principally concerned with the period of the three first centuries, that is, from the times of the apostles down to Origin.-For he has given us the firft perfect catalogue of the Scriptures of the New Testament; and since his time these catalogues, (or canons), and the evidences for each of the books of the New Testament are so numerous, that it would be perfectly superfluous to attempt to prove that since the fourth century the very same books of the New Testament were held by Christians to be divine, which we at present confess to be such. Moreover, subsequent information is inadequate to establish the authenticity of the Scriptures of


: o These canons are found according to the order of

the centuries, in Gerhardi de Mafricht Canon ecclefiafticus Scriptura Sacra.-The latest and beft edition of this work is that of Jena, 1725, in 8vo.


the New Testament. It is too recent, and the foregoing centuries were too replete with spurious and forged works to be capable of instructing us confidently what writings were actually composed by the disciples of Jesus in the first century. But of so much greater consequence to us is the period of the three first centuries; and it is a very great error in the defenders of Chriftianity, when they, either by contenting themselves merely with the well-known evidences of Eufebius; or, by produeing quotations from the primitive writers, which are perfectly indeterminate; or, by accumulating such passages from them as have only a fimilitude in words and sentiments, bring a fufpicion on the whole proof for the authenticity, and consequently also for the divinity, of these books.

Whoever has been much engaged with the writings of antiquity, its modes of thinking and manners, will instantly



[ocr errors]

perceive, on reading these books, thai they are not the work of an impostor, but that they were composed about the first century of the Roman monarchy; just as a connoiffeur in the fine arts will immediately see whether a painting, a ftatue, or a gem, be the production of antiquity, an original; or merely a copy, and of a modern age. In the Scriptures of the New Testament there cannot be discovered the smallest trace of deceit or forgery. On the contrary, the character of the pretended times of their compofition, and of their pretended authors, is fo deeply impressed on them, that a critic, by a mere perufal, will discover their authenticity.

It must appear remarkable to any one who has ever employed himself in distinguishing the genuine remains of antiquity from the fpurious, that in these writings there cannot be found the smallest veftige of a forgery. What áre called the Canones and Constitu


« FöregåendeFortsätt »