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disproportioned to the relative merits of his testimony.
historical parts of the New Testament were written by the disciples of our Saviour. This Let us suppose, for the sake of farther il- is very decisive evidence. But how does it lustration, that Tacitus had included some happen, that it should throw a clearer gleam more particulars in his testimony, and that, of light and satisfaction over the mind of in addition to the execution of our Saviour, the inquirer, than he had yet experienced he had asserted, in round and unqualified in the whole train of his investigation? terms, that this said Christus had risen from Whence that disposition to underrate the the dead, and was seen alive by some hun- antecedent testimony of the Christian wridreds of his acquaintances. Even this would ters? Talk not of theirs being an intenot have silenced altogether the cavils of rested testimony; for, in point of fact, the enemies, but it would have reclaimed many same disposition operates, after reason is an infidel; been exulted in by many a sin-convinced that the suspicion is totally uncere Christian; and made to occupy a fore-founded. What we contend for is, that this most place in many a book upon the eviden- indifference to the testimony of the Chrisces of our religion. Are we to forget all the tian writers implies a dereliction of princiwhile, that we are in actual possession of ples, which apply with the utmost confimuch stronger testimony? that we have the dence to all similar inquiries. concurrence of eight or ten contemporary The effects of this same principle are perauthors, most of whom had actually seen fectly discernible in the writings of even Christ after the great event of his resurrec-our most judicious apologists. We offer no tion? that the veracity of these authors, and the genuineness of their respective publications, are established on grounds much stronger than have ever been alleged in behalf of Tacitus, or any ancient author? Whence this unaccountable preference of Tacitus? Upon every received principle of criticism, we are bound to annex greater confidence to the testimony of the apostles. It is vain to recur to the imputation of its being an interested testimony. This the apologists for Christianity undertake to disprove, and actually have disproved it, and that by a much greater quantity of evidence than would be held perfectly decisive in a question of common history. If after this there should remain any lurking sentiment of diffidence or suspicion, it is entirely resolvable into some such principle as I have already alluded to. It is to be treated as a mere feeling,-a delusion which should not be admitted to have any influence on the convictions of the understanding.
reflection against the assiduous Lardner, who, in his credibility of the Gospel history, presents us with a collection of testimonies which should make every Christian proud of his religion. In his evidence for the authenticity of the different pieces which make up the New Testament, he begins with the oldest of the fathers, some of whom were the intimate companions of the original writers. According to our view of the matter, he should have dated the commencement of his argument from a higher point, and begun with the testimonies of these original writers to one another. In the second Epistle of Peter, there is a distinct reference made to the writings of Paul; and in the Acts of the Apostles, there is a reference made to one of the four Gospels. Had Peter, instead of being an apostle, ranked only with the fathers of the church, and had his epistle not been admitted into the canon of scripture, this testimony of his would have had a place in the catalogue, The principle which we have been at- and been counted peculiarly valuable, both tempting to expose, is found, in fact, to run for its precision and its antiquity. There is through every part of the argument, and to certainly nothing in the estimation he énaccompany the inquirer through all the joyed, or in the circumstances of his epistle branches of the investigation. The authen- being bound up with the other books of the ticity of the different books of the New New Testement, which ought to impair the Testament forms a very important inquiry, credit of his testimony. But in effect, his teswherein the object of the Christian Apolo-timony does make a weaker impression on gist is to prove, that they were really written by their professed authors. In proof of this, there is an uninterrupted series of testimony from the days of the apostles; and it was not to be expected, that a point so isoteric to the Christian society could have attracted the attention of profane authors, till the religion of Jesus, by its progress in the world, had rendered itself conspicuous. It is not then till about eighty years after the publication of the different pieces, that we meet with the testimony of Celsus, an avowed enemy to Christianity, and who asserts, upon the strength of its general notoriety, that the
the mind, than a similar testimony from Barnabas, or Clement, or Polycarp. It certainly ought not to do it, and there is a delusion in the preference that is thus given to the latter writers. It is in fact, another example of the principle which we have been so often insisting upon. What profane authors are in reference to Christian authors at large, the fathers of the church are in reference to the original writers of the New Testament. In contradiction to every approved principle, we prefer the distant and later testimony, to the testimony of writers who carry as much evidence and legitimate
authority along with them, and who only differ from others in being nearer the original source of information. We neglect and undervalue the evidence which the New Testament itself furnishes, and rest the whole of the argument upon the external and superinduced testimony of subsequent authors.
If it were necessary in a court of justice to ascertain the circumstances of a certain transaction which happened in a particular neighbourhood, the obvious expedient would be to examine the agents and eye-witnesses of that transaction. If six or eight concurred in giving the same testimony-if there was no appearance of collusion among A great deal of all this is owing to the them-if they had the manner and aspect manner in which the defence of Christianity of creditable men-above all, if this testimohas been conducted by its friends and sup-ny were made public, and not a single indiporters. They have given too much into vidual, from the numerous spectators of the the suspicions of the opposite party. They transaction alluded to, step forward to falsify have yielded their minds to the infection of it, then, we apprehend, the proof would be their skepticism, and maintained, through looked upon as complete. Other witnesses the whole process, a caution and a delicacy might be summoned from a distance to give which they often carry to a degree that is in their testimony, not of what they saw, excessive; and by which, in fact, they have but of what they heard upon the subject; done injustice to their own arguments. but their concurrence, though a happy Some of them begin with the testimony of enough circumstance, would never be lookTacitus as a first principle, and pursue the ed upon as any material addition to the eviinvestigation upwards, as if the evidence dence already brought forward. Another that we collect from the annals of the Ro- court of justice might be held in a distant man historian were stronger than that of country, and years after the death of the orithe Christian writers who flourished nearer ginal witnesses. It might have occasion to the scene of the investigation, and whose verify the same transaction, and for this credibility can be established on grounds purpose might call in the only evidence which are altogether independent of his which it was capable of collecting-the testestimony. In this way, they come at last timony of men who lived after the transacto the credibility of the New Testament tion in question, and at a great distance from writers, but by a lengthened and circuitous the place where it happened. There would procedure. The reader feels as if the argu- be no hesitation, in ordinary cases, about ment were diluted at every step in the pro- the relative value of the two testimonies; cess of derivation, and his faith in the Gos- and the record of the first court could be pel history is much weaker than his faith appealed to by posterity as by far the more in histories that are far less authenticated. valuable document, and far more decisive Bring Tacitus and the New Testament to an of the point in controversy. Now, what we immediate comparison, and subject them complain of, is, that in the instance before both to the touchstone of ordinary and re- us this principle is reversed. The report of ceived principles, and it will be found that hearsay witnesses is held in higher estimathe latter leaves the former out of sight in tion than the report of the original agents all the marks, and characters, and evidences and spectators. The most implicit credit is of an authentic history. The truth of the given to the testimony of the distant and Gospel stands on a much firmer and more later historians, and the testimony of the independent footing, than many of its de- original witnesses is received with as fenders would dare to give us any concep- much distrust as if they carried the marks tion of. They want that boldness of argu- of villany and imposture upon their forement which the merits of the question heads. The genuineness of the first record entitle them to assume. They ought to can be established by a much greater weight maintain a more decided front to their ad- and variety of evidence, than the genuineversaries, and tell them, that, in the New ness of the second. Yet all the suspicion Testament itself-in the concurrence of its that we feel upon this subject annexes to numerous, and distant, and independent the former; and the apostles and evangelauthors-in the uncontradicted authority ists, with every evidence in their favour which it has maintained from the earliest which it is in the power of testimony to times of the church-in the total inability of the bitterest adversaries of our religion to impeach its credibility-in the genuine characters of honesty and fairness which it carries on the very face of it; that in these, and in every thing else, which can give validity to the written history of past times, there is a weight and a splendour of evidence, which the testimony of Tacitus cannot confirm, and which the absence of that testimony could not have diminished.
furnish, are, in fact, degraded from the place which they ought to occupy among the accredited historians of past times."
The above observations may help to prepare the inquirer for forming a just and impartial estimate of the merits of the Christian testimony. His great object should be to guard against every bias of the understanding. The general idea is, that a predilection in favour of Christianity may lead him to overraté the argument. We believe
that if every unfair tendency of the mind should not be looked upon as nugatory when could be subjected to a rigorous computa- applied to the investigation of those facts tion, it would be found, that the combined which are connected with the truth and operation of them all has the effect of im- establishment of the Christian religion, that pressing a bias in a contrary direction. All every prepossession should be swept away, we wish for, is, that the arguments which are and room left for the understanding, to expaheld decisive in other historical questions, tiate without fear, and without incumbrance.
On the Authenticity of the different Books of the New Testament.
monies, be exhibited to the eye of the reader in parallel columns, it would enable him, at one glance, to form a complete estimate. We shall have occasion to call his attention to this so often, that we may appear to many of our readers to have expatiated upon our introductory principle to a degree that is tiresome and unnecessary. We conceive, however, that it is the best and most perspicuous way of putting the argument.
THE argument for the truth of the differ-tles, than in believing what he has never ent facts recorded in the gospel history, re-doubted-the history of Alexander, and the solves itself into four parts. In the first, it doctrine of Socrates. Could all the marks shall be our object to prove, that the differ- of veracity, and the list of subsequent testient pieces which make up the New Testament, were written by the authors whose names they bear, and the age which is commonly assigned to them. In the second, we shall exhibit the internal marks of truth and honesty, which may be gathered from the compositions themselves. In the third, we shall press upon the reader the known situation and history of the authors, as satisfying proofs of the veracity with which they delivered themselves. And, in the fourth, I. The different pieces which make up we shall lay before them the additional the New Testament, were written by the and subsequent testimonies, by which the authors whose names they bear, and at the narrative of the original writers is sup-time which is commonly assigned to them. ported.
After the long slumber of the middle ages, In every point of the investigation, we shall the curiosity of the human mind was meet with examples of the principle which awakened, and felt its attention powerfully we have already alluded to. We have said, directed to those old writings, which have that if two distinct inquiries be set on foot, survived the waste of so many centuries. where the object of the one is to settle some It were a curious speculation to ascertain point of sacred history, and the object of the precise quantity of evidence which lay the other is to settle some point of profane in the information of these old documents. history, the mind acquiesces in a much And it may help us in our estimate, first to smaller quantity of evidence in the latter suppose, that in the researches of that case than it does in the former. If this be period, there was only one composition right, (and to a certain degree it undoubt- found which professed to be a narrative of edly is,) then it is incumbent on the defen- past times. A number of circumstances can der of Christianity to bring forward a greater be assigned, which might give a certain dequantity of evidence than would be deemed gree of probability to the information even sufficient in a question of common litera- of this solitary and unsupported document. ture, and to demand the acquiescence of his There si, first, the general consideration, reader upon the strength of this superior that the principle upon which a man feels evidence. If it be not right beyond a cer- himself induced to write a true history, is tain degree-and if there be a tendency in of more frequent and powerful operation, the mind to carry it beyond that degree, than the principle upon which a man feels then this tendency is founded upon a delu- himself induced to offer a false or a disguised sion, and it is well that the reader should be representation of facts to the world. This apprised of its existence, that he may pro- affords a general probability on the side of tect himself from its influence. The supe- the document in question being a true narrarior quantity of evidence which we can tive; and there may be some particulars bring forward, will, in this case, all go to connected with the appearance of the peraugment the positive effect upon his con-formance itself, which might strengthen victions; and he will rejoice to perceive that he is far safer in believing what has been handed down to him of the history of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of his apos
this probability. We may not be able to discover in the story itself any inducement which the man could have in publishing it, if it were mainly and substantially false.
We might see an expression of honesty, | tives, all of them possessing the same claims which it is in the power of written lan- upon our belief. If it be improbable that guage, as well as of spoken language, to one should be written for the purpose of imconvey. We might see that there was no- posing a falsehood upon the world, it is still thing monstrous or improbable in the nar-more improbable that many should be writrative itself. And, without enumerating ten, all of them conspiring to the same perevery particular calculated to give it the verse and unnatural object. No one can impression of truth, we may, in the pro-doubt, at least, that of the multitude of writgress of our inquiries, have ascertained, that ten testimonies which have come down to copies of this manuscript were to be found us, the true must greatly preponderate over in many places, and in different parts of the the false; and that the deceitful principle, world, proving, by the evidence of its dif- though it exists sometimes, could never opefusion, the general esteem in which it was rate to such an extent, as to carry any great held by the readers of past ages. This gives or general imposition in the face of all the us the testimony of these readers to the value documents which are before us. The supof the performance; and as we are suppos- position must be extended much farther than ing it is a history, and not a work of ima- we have yet carried it, before we reach the gination, it could only be valued on the prin- degree of evidence and of testimony, of which ciple of the information which was laid be-on many points of ancient history, we are at fore them being true. In this way a solitary this moment in actual possession. Many document, transmitted to us from a remote documents have been collected, professing to antiquity, might gain credit in the world, though it had been lost sight of for many ages, and only brought to light by the revival of a literary spirit, which had lain dormant during a long period of history.
be written at different times, and by men of different countries. In this way a great body of ancient literature has been formed, from which we can collect many points of evidence, too tedious to enumerate. Do we We can further suppose, that in the pro- find the express concurrence of several augress of these researches, another manu- thors to the same piece of history? Do we script was discovered, having the same cha- find, what is still more impressive, events racters, and possessing the same separate formally announced in one narrative, not and original marks of truth with the former. told over again, but implied and proceeded If they both touched upon the same period upon as true in another? Do we find the of history, and gave testimony to the same succession of history, through a series of events, it is plain that a stronger evidence ages, supported in a way that is natural and for the truth of these events would be afford- consistent? Do we find those compositions ed, than what it was in the power of either which profess a higher antiquity, appealed of the testimonies taken separately to sup- to by those which profess a lower? These, ply. The separate circumstances which and a number of other points, which meet gave a distinct credibility to each of the every scholar who betakes himself to the testimonies are added together, and give also actual investigation, give a most warm and much higher credibility to those points of in- living character of reality to the history of formation upon which they deliver a com- past times. There is a perversity of mind mon testimony. This is the case when the which may resist all this. There is no end testimonies carry in them the appearance of to the fancies of scepticism. We may plead being independent of one another. And even in vain the number of written testimonies, when the one is derived from the other, it their artless coincidence, and the perfect unstill affords an accession to the evidence; designedness of manner by which they often because the author of the subsequent testi- supply the circumstances that serve both to mony gives us the distinct assertion, that he guide and satisfy the inquirer, and to throw believed in the truth of the original testi-light and support upon one another. The mony. infidel will still have something behind The evidence may be strengthened still which he can entrench himself; and his last farther, by the accession of a third manu- supposition, monstrous and unnatural as it script, and a third testimony. All the sepa- is, may be, that the whole of written history rate circumstances which confer credibility is a laborious fabrication, sustained for many upon any one document, even though it ages, and concurred in by many individuals, stands alone and unsupported by any other, with no other purpose than to enjoy the combine themselves into a much stronger anticipated blunders of the men of future body of evidence, when we have obtained times, whom they had combined with so the concurrence of several. If, even in the much dexterity to bewilder and lead astray. case of a single narrative, a probability lies If it were possible to summon up to the on the side of its being true, from the mul- presence of the mind the whole mass of titude and diffusion of copies, and from the spoken testimony, it would be found, that air of truth and honesty discernible in the what was false bore a very small proportion composition itself, the probability is heigh- to what was true. For many obvious reatened by the coincidence of several narra- sons, the proportion of the false to the true C
must be also small in written testimony. | thinks of disputing the fact; and from the Yet instances of falsehood occur in both; extracts which he makes for the purpose of and the actual ability to separate the false criticism, there can be no doubt in the mind from the true in written history, proves that of the reader that it is one or other of the four historical evidence has its principles and its Gospels to which he refers. The single testiprobabilities to go upon. There may be the mony of Celsus may be considered as denatural signs of dishonesty. There may be cisive of the fact, that the story of Jesus and the wildness and improbability of the nar- of his life was actually written by his discirative. There may be a total want of ples. Celsus writes about a hundred years agreement on the part of other documents. after the alleged time of the publication of There may be the silence of every author this story; but that it was written by the for ages after the pretended date of the companions of this Jesus, is a fact which he manuscript in question. There may be all never thinks of disputing. He takes it upon these, in sufficient abundance, to convict the the strength of its general notoriety, and the manuscript of forgery and falsehood. This whole history of that period furnishes nohas actually been done in several instances. thing that can attach any doubt or suspicion The skill and discernment of the human to this circumstance. Referring to a prinmind upon the subject of historical evidence, ciple already taken notice of, had it been have been improved by the exercise. The the history of a philosopher instead of a profew cases in which sentence of condemnation phet, its authenticity would have been adhas been given, are so many testimonies to mitted without any formal testimony to that the competency of the tribunal which has sat effect. It would have been admitted so to in judgment over them, and give a stability speak, upon the mere existence of the titleto their verdict, when any document is ap- page, combined with this circumstance, that proved of. It is a peculiar subject, and the the whole course of history or tradition does men who stand at a distance from it may not furnish us with a single fact, leading us multiply their suspicions and their skepti- to believe that the correctness of this titlecism at pleasure; but no intelligent man ever page was ever questioned. It would have entered into the details, without feeling the been admitted, not because it was asserted most familiar and satisfying conviction of by subsequent writers, but because they that credit and confidence which it is in the made no assertion upon the subject, because power of historical evidence to bestow. they never thought of converting it into a matter of discussion, and because their occasional references to the book in question would be looked upon as carrying in them a tacit acknowledgement, that it was the very same book which it professed to be at the present day. The distinct assertion of Celsus that the pieces in question were written by the companions of Jesus, though even at the distance of a hundred years, is an argument in favour of their authenticity, which cannot be alleged for many of the most esteemed compositions of antiquity. It is the addition of a formal testimony to that kind of general evidence, which is founded upon the tacit or implied concurrence of subsequent writers, and which is held to be perfectly decisive in similar cases.
Now, to apply this to the object of our present division, which is to ascertain the age of the document, and the person who is the author of it. These are points of information which may be collected from the performance itself. They may be found in the body of the composition, or they may be more formally announced in the title page and every time that the book is referred to by its title, or the name of the author and age of the publication are announced in any other document that has come down to us, these points of information receive additional proof from the testimony of subsequent writers.
The New Testament is bound up in one volume, but we would be underrating its evidence if we regarded it only as one testimony, and that the truth of the facts recorded in it rested upon the testimony of one historian. It is not one publication, but a collection of several publications, which are ascribed to different authors and made their first apearance in different parts of the world. To fix the date of their appearance, it is necessary to institute a separate inquiry for each publication; and it is the unexcepted testimony of all subsequent writers, that two of the Gospels and several of the Epistles, were written by the immediate disciples of our Saviour, and published in their lifetime. Celsus, an enemy of the Christian faith, refers to the affairs of Jesus as written by his disciples. He never
Had the pieces, which make up the New Testament, been the only documents of past times, the mere existence of a pretension to such an age, and to such an author, resting on their own information, would have been sustained as a certain degree of evidence, that the real age and the real author had been assigned to them. But we have the testimony of subsequent authors to the same effect; and it is to be remarked, that it is by far the most crowded, and the most closely sustained series of testimonies, of which we have any example in the whole field of ancient history. When we assigned the testimony of Celsus, it is not to be supposed that this is the very first which occurs after the days of the apostles. The blank