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BOOK III.

THE UNCORRUPTED PRESERVATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

CHAP. t.

The Books extant at present in the New Testament, are the same Writings •which were originally composed by the Authors whose Names they bear.

But, it may perhaps be said, have not those books been long ago destroyed? Are not these which we have at present in the New Testament some of the writings which, in the early ages of Christianity, were falsely ascribed to the immediate disciples of Jesus? Or, how can we be assured, whether they are not so changed by latter interpolations and erasures, as to have become entirely R 2 different

.different from the originals? — It is therefore necessary to shew, that these writings have descended to us unaltered, or, in other words, the uncorrupted preservation of our present New Testament.—And this I shali prove

I. From their Contents.

AS early as the two first centuries of the Christian era, we find the very 4 f&mefaSls and the very same doQrines universally received by the Christians, which we, of the present day, believe en the credit of the New Testament.— That Jesus was born, under the Roman emperour Augustus, and taught in the Jewish territory; that he publicly performed many and great miracleswas persecuted by his enemies the Jews, though innocent, even to death on the cross; and arose alive from the grave on the third day after his death; that a belief in this' Jesus and his doctrine is the only way to salvation for all those to whotn they have been promulgated; that this fame Jesus has published and ordained for his disciples the wisest and most salutary precepts in respect of our conduct towards God, towards ourselves, and towards our neighbour; that hereafter he will descend gloriously from heaven, into which he visibly ascended, in order to awaken the dead, and to judge the whole race of mankind:—all this is asserted in all the earliest writings of Christian antiquity1 to have been the universal belief of Christians01.—And all this likewise is contained in those books which we now possess under the names of the Evangelists and Apostles.

1 See above, Part I. Book II. Chi i—iii.

m It is only necessary to read, for instance, the 19th and 20th ch. of Irenæus's sifth book Adversus hæreses, where he gives a short iketch of the Christian doctrine as it then existed.—The principal writings on this subject are, Dionysii Petravii Dogmata Theologica; Jacob Basnage Histoire de l'Elise; Lardner L. cit. 5 and Dr. Semler's Collections from the writings of the old teachers, which he has presixed to Ba»mgarten's Dogmatic and Polemic.

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II.—Because an universal corruption of these writings was impqffible; nor can the least vestige of such a corruption be found in history.

THAT these books should be universally corrupted was totally impossible from the very state of Christianity. —The Christian religion, even in the first century, was spread through every part of the known world. From the persecutions which then took place, the distinct communities existing at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and in many other considerable cities, had little or no external connection with each other. As early as the first century arose Heretics, whole tenets were refuted by the Orthodox in their writings. Christians, even of no rank or consequence, were in possession of

many many copies of these books, which were reverenced and read with the greatest attention". During the two sirst centuries no secret was made of any one relation or doctrine of the holy scriptures. On the contrary, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenæus, appeal to the facility which every one enjoyed of reading their scriptures; and what has been termed the Disciplina arcani, which attempted an occasional suppression of different histories or doctrines, is a custom of latter times, and crept into Christianity with PseudoPlatonism*. And at a very early period many translations of them were made into the Syriac and Latin languages. Now it must have been almost a miracle, if—notwithstanding the great variety of copies, and translations, of the originals, spread abroad among

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n See Walch On the use of the Holy Scripture among •the ancient Christians. Leipzig, 1779, m "vo> * See above, p. 94.

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