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fishermen, little versed in the arts of worldly policy ;; they were to oppose the obstinacy of the Jew and the learning of the Gentile, who were no less able than they would be willing to detect any scheme of imposture, and, what is still more, they had to combat the inveterate wickedness and corruption of both : what prospect therefore could they have of doing this with success, if they had not believed the doctrines they taught, and that therefore the hand of the Lord was sufficient for all these things? And for a decisive argument, that they were not deceivers, I need only to appeal to the plainness and simplicity of their lives, the purity of their doctrines, and the honesty and openness, of their writings, in which they even record their own failings and contentions, without any mitigation or disguise ; which surely does not look like the art and design with which impostors usually carry on their schemes of fraud and invention. So that we may safely acquit the sacred writers of the charge of being either deceived themselves, or intending to deceive others.
But as infidelity, when driven from one of its strong holds, never wants another to fly to; therefore when no charge of imposture could be fixed upon the Apostles themselves with any tolerable face of probability, it has been pretended, YOL, III,
that they were not the authors of the sacred writings of the New Testament, but that the whole of them was a bold and daring forgery : that some ingenious. men might unite their labours to impose upon the world a set of fictitious writings, which the prevailing darkness of gothric ignorance, in the fourth or fifth century, might easily enable them to succeed in. This is a master-stroke of infidelity, so bold, that it has rather been artfully insinuated than openly avowed, even by infidels themselves. But since it was intended to shake the grounds of our holy faith, and unsettle the minds of believers, let us see what foundation it may be supposed to have either in truth or probability. . .si
A set of ingenious men, it is said, might unite their labours to impose a body of spurious doctrines upon the world: no doubt, they might: they might too unite their labours to impose upon us the actions of a Cæsar or the wisdom of a Socrates, the laws of Solon or the code of Justinian: but what evidence is there of their havo ing either done or attempted all this? To believe without grounds of belief is madness itself: therefore till the infidel who dares assert this, can shew, that there is the least ground, either in fact or history, for believing the sacred writings to be such a forgery, he cannot wonder, if we rank him among those pitiable objects, whom God has deprived of the light of reason. ';
Since then there are no grounds, in fact, for supposing such a forgery, let us see whether there be any in probability:
And here I would first remark, that the great variety of stile and manner in the several writings of the New Testament, makes it abundantly evident that they were not all written by the same hand. A man might as well think to reconcile impossibilities, as to suppose that the same person could produce the impetuous thunder and abrupt sublimity of St. Paul, and the gentle simplicity and mildness of St. John. So that, if the New Testament be a forgery, it is not the forgery of one, but of many; which makes such a supposition much more improbable and difficult.
But even if it were possible to suppose, that many should conspire in so ridiculous an undertaking, still they would have had a labour upon their hands, which it would have required more than Herculean strength to accomplish. For since all the ancient fathers are intirely grounded upon the scriptures of the New Testament, they must not only have forged that, but they must
also have forged all their writings ; which are so voluminous and numerous, that it would be the laborious business of a long life even to read them with tolerable attention.'
Add to this, that they must have been men of uncominon erudition and singular accuracy. For surely in writings, which almost in every page refer to some public and well-known facts or customs of antiquity, it must have required no common talents to have described every thing with such a happy precision, to have kept up so rare a consistency of one part with another, and so nice a coincidence with the collateral re lations of profaire history, that neither the most exact researches of candid inquiry, nor the most critical investigations of infidel sagacity have been able, through a course of many hundred years, to discover the least slip in time, place, or circumstance.
And after all, what purpose could such a design have answered, either to the world, or to the persons who undertook it? If they meant to make the world worse, they were fools doubly; because the world was then as bad as it well could be, and their doctrines had a tendency to make it better :' and if they wished to make it better, they were inconsistent with themselves ;
since they taught, that it was not allowable to do evil that good may come.
As to riches, profits, or honours, they could expect none of them because the success of such an undertaking must wholly depend upon their being for ever unknown. Since then there was neither pleasure nor profit to tempt them to execute such a scheme, they must have done it, we must suppose, out of drollery and humour, with a design to dupe and laugh at mankind. But surely to . forge a statute-book, or a hundred volumes of reports and comments, is such Quixotism of humour as never entered even the brain of a modern wit !
I might confirm what has been said upon this subject, by shewing, that we have undoubted evidence, that the Syriac and Latin translations of the New Testament were made in the first century, and that many parts of the New Testament are quoted by the fathers who wrote in the first century; and that the general canon of the New Testament was 'plainly acknowledged by the council of Nice, at the end of the third century; so that this supposition of a forgery of a later date is utterly impossible. But enough has been already said against so idle a supposition, which scarcely deserved a serious confutation, were not the most trifling“ pretences magnified