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CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.

No. 242.)

FEBRUARY, 1822.

[No. 2. Vol. XXII.

RELIGIOUS COMMUNICATIONS.

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ON THE APOCHRYPHAL NEW

1. The apocryphal books either TESTAMENT.

propose or support some doctrine or (Continued from p. 5.)

practice, contrary to those which AVING enumerated the books are certainly known to be true, and

of the Apocryphal New Tes- appear designed to obdiate some tament, and shewn by external heresy, which had its origin subseevidence that they are not inspired quent to the apostolic age. or canonical, Mr. Horne proceeds,

One of the doctrines, which as follows with the third section of

these spurious writings were inhis argument.

tended to establish, was, the sanc

tity of relics. As a striking proof The internal evidence for the of this, we are told in the first spuriousness of these productions Gospel of the Infancy, that when is much stronger than the external the eastern magi had come from evidence : for, independently of the east to Jerusalem, according to the

total absence of all those cri- the prophecy of Zoradascht, and teria of genuineness which are had made their offerings, the lady clearly to be seen in the canonical Mary took one of his swaddling books, it is evident that the apo

clothes in which the infant was cryphal productions ascribed to wrapped, and gave it to them inthe Apostles are utterly unworthy stead of a blessing, which they reof notice; for, 1. They either pro.

ceived from her as a most noble, pose or support some doctrine or present. As bandages, of a similar practice contrary to those which nature and efficacy, were preserved are certainly known to be true.- in some churches with the most 2. They are filled with absurd, un

superstitious reverence, important, impertinent and frivo- pose for which the above was writlous details.-3. They relate both ten is obvious. useless and improbable miracles.

The corrupt doctrines relative to 4. They mention things, which are the Virgin Mary form an essential later than the time when the author part in the scheme of some of these lived, whose name the book bears. designers. Those who believed, –5. Their style is totally different or affected to believe, that the Vira from that of the genuine books of gin was exalted into heaven, who the New Testament.-6. They con-, adopted the notion of her immatain direct contradictions to au- culate conception, and her power of thentic history, both sacred and working miracles, found but little profane.-7. They are studied countenance for their absurdities in imitations of various passages in the the genuine Gospels. It was a task genuine Scriptures, both to con- too hard for them to defend such ceal the fraud and to allure readers; tenets against their adversaries, -and, 8. They contain gross false- while the canonical books were the hoods, utterly repugnant to the ou ly authority they could appeal to.. character, principles, and conduct Hence a gospel was written De. of the inspired writers.

Nativitate Mariæ (the Gospel of CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 242.

K

The pura

the Birth of Mary), in which her common as this book supposes till birth is foretold by angels, and some centuries after. herself represented as always under 2. Whoever has perused with the peculiar protection of Heaven. candour and attention the memoirs Hence in the gospel attributed to of the Four Evangelists, cannot but James, which assumed the name of be struck with the natural and artProt.evangelium, as claiming the less manner in which they relate superiority over every other, whe- every fact. They never stop to ther canonical or apocrypbal, the think how this or that occurrence fact of the immaculate conception may be set off to most advantage, is supported by such a miracle as or how any thing unfavourable to to leave no doubt upon the most themselves may be palliated. No. incredulous mind. Hence too in thing ludicrous, no impertinent or the Evangelium Infantiæ, or Gospel trilling circumstances, are recorded of the Infancy, the Virgin, who is by them. Every thing, on the consimply said by St. Matthew to have trary, proves that they derived the gone into Egypt, is represented as facts which they have related, from making her progress more like a infallible and indisputable sources divinity than a mortal, performing, of information. Far different was by the assistance of her infant Son, the conduct of the compilers of the a variety of miracles, such as might apocryphal gospels. The unimporentitle her in the minds of the tant, impertinent, and frivolous bliud and bigotted to divine ho- details with which their pages are nours.

filled, plainly prove that they were In further corroboration of the not possessed of any real and audesign of exalting the Virgin Mary, thentic information upon the subshe is sometimes made to work mi- ject which they undertake to eluracles herself, is almost always made cidate ; and clearly invalidate their the instrument or means of work, pretensions as eye-witnesses of the ing it, and is the person applied to, transactions which attended the and receiving the praise of the introduction of the religion of Jesus work, while Joseph stands by as an Christ. Thus, in the pseudo-gospel unconcerned spectator, and is never of the Birth of Mary, we have an mentioned. But what is most re- idle tale of Christ's ascending the markable, is, that she is canonised, stairs of the temple by a miracle at and called always (not only by the three years of age, and of angels author of the gospel, but by those ministering to Mary in her infancy. who were perfect strangers to her So, in the Prot-evangelion, ascribed before, in Egypt and elsewhere) to James the Less, we are presented diva Maria and diva sancta Maria; with a dull and silly dialogue, bewhich we know not how better to tween the mother of Mary and her translate, than in the language of waiting-maid Judith, and with anoher worshippers, the Lady St. iher equally impertinent between Mary. And aged Simeon, in his the parents of Mary. We have also, prayer, which is found here, chap. in the same performance, an acii. v. 25, and recorded Luke ii. 28. count of Mary being fed by angels, -34. is introduced as stretching and a grave consultation of priests out his hands towards her, as though concerning the making of a vail for he worshipped her. But of all this the temple. The pseudo-gospel of the first ages were ignorant; nor in the Infancy, and that ascribed to the first centuries after Christ do the apostle Thomas, present childish we find any thing of this prodigious relations of our Saviour's infancy deference to the Virgin: this was and education, of vindictive and ao invention of later ages, and was mischievous miracles wrought by not heard of in the church till the him, of his learning the alphabet, fourth or fifth century, nor so &c. &c.

3. In the pseudo-gospels of Mary, him and went up unto the mounof the Infancy, and of Thomas tains, and looked around for a place (which have been already cited), to hide him; and there was no numerous miracles are ascribed to secret place to be found. Then she the mother of Jesus, or to himself groaned within herself, and suid, in his infancy, which are both O mountain of the Lord, receive USELESS and IMPROBABLE.- the mother with the child. For The proper effect and design of a Elizabeth could not climb up. And miracle is, 10 mark clearly the instantly the mountain was divided Divine interposition: and, as is and received them. And there apevident, the manner and circuin- peared an stance of such interference must preserve them."

angel of the Lord to be marked with a dignity, and so- Various miracles are said to be lemnity, befitting the more imme- wrought both by Mary and her Son, diate presence of the Almighty. particularly by the laiter, who is reWhen therefore we observe any presented as employing his powers miraculous acts attributed to per- io assist Joseph in his trade (he besons, not exercising such a com- ing but a budgling carpenter), espemission, performed upon frivolous cially when he had made articles of or improper occasions, or marked furniture of wrong dimensions by any circumstance of levity or ivanity, we conclude that the report following illustration. It is not without

* Mr. Horne presents, in a note, the of such miracles is unworthy our

extreme painthat I transcribe so absurd, attention, and that the reporters of and I may say blasphemous, a passage; them are to be suspected of gross but I do it, as doubtless Mr. Horne did, error or intentional deceit. Thus from a conviction that one such para. we smile with contempt at the pro. graph is sufficient to convince every digies of a writer, who gravely re- reader of the immeasurable discrelates as a stupendous miracle, that pancy between the true and the spua child at the age of three years,

rious books of the sacred canon. The ascended without assistance the passage is taken from 1 Infancy xvi. steps of the temple at Jerusalem, corresponding to chap. xxxviii. xxxix.

p. 36. of the Apocryphal New Testament, which were but balf a cubit each in of Joues and other writers." And height. In the same gospel, in Joseph, wheresoever he went in the supposed accommodation to a pro city, took the Lord Jesus with him, phecy of Isaial, which is most where he was sent for to work, to make grossly misinterpreted, a declara- gates, or milk.pails, or sieves, or boxes; tion from Heaven is alleged to

the Lord Jesus was with him, whereso. have taken place in favour of Joseph

ever he went. And as often as Joseph the reputed father of Jesus, similar had any thing in his work to make longer to ibai, wbich, upon the strongest Lord Jesus would stretch his hands to

or shorter, or wider or narrower, the grounds, we believe to have been

wards it, and presently it became as made in honour of Jesus at his bap- Joseph would have it; so that he had tism. The bandage which was men- no reed to finish any thing with his own tioned in it as having been present- hands, for he was not very skilful at his ed by Mary to the Magi, is of course carpenter's trade. On a certain time represented as the instrument of a the king of Jerusalem sent for him, and miracle, being cast into a fire, yet said, • I would have thee make me a not consumed. In another of these throne, of the same dimensions with ingenious productions, when Eliza

that place in which I commonly sit.' beth wished 10 sbelter her infant Joseph obeyed, and forth with began

the work, and continued two years in son from the persecution of Herod, the king's palace, before he finished it. she is said to bave been thus won- And when he came to fix it in its place, derfully preserved : “ Elizabeth he found it wanted two spans on each also, hearing that her son John side of the appointed measure. Which was about to be searched for, took when the king saw, he was very angry The various silly miracles attributed have believed on me whom you to the Apostles throughout these not seen ; for it is written conceri writings, are so many arguments me, that those who have seen to prove that the conipilations con- should not believe on me, that 1 taining them are apocryphal-or, who have not seen might believe more correctly, spurious, and that live. This is a manifest allusio they are either the productions of those words of our Saviou, the weakest of men, who were fondly Thomas (Jobp xx. 29.) Blessey 'credulous of every report, and had they who have not seen, and not discretion enough to distinguish have believed. Here indeed between sense and nonsense, or be- which ihe Epistle says is wr tween that which was credible and concerning Christ, þut in no « tbat which was utterly unworthy of passage of the New Testan credit; or else that these compi. The same proof of forgery or lations are the artsul contrivance of in the Gospel of Nicodemu some who were more zealous than which the Jews style Pilate honest, and who thought by these highness,-a title which was strange stories to gain credit to known to the Jews or used a their new religion.

them at that time;- in the sto 4. Things are mentioned, which Christ's going down into he are later than the time in which the recover and bring thence the author lived, whose name the book archs ;- in the profound vene bears. Thus the Epistle under the paid to the sign of the cross, pame of our Saviour to Abgarus, is ticularly the practice of și manifestly a forgery; for it relates with the sign of the cross, that to have been done by Christ, is here said to be done by Ch which could not possibly have been and Lenthius, before ihey done till a considerable time after upon their relation of the 1 Christ's ascension. Thus, in the mysteries ;-and in Christ's a beginning of the Epistle, a passage the sign of the cross upon is cited out of St. John's Gospel, and upon all the saints in bel which was not written till a con. fure he delivered them fror siderable time after our Lord's as. state. It is to be observed cension: the words are; Abgarus, the practice of signing wi you are happy, forasmuch as you cross, though very common

fourth and following centuri with Joseph; and Josephi, afraid of the not at all known till towar king's anger, went to bed without his end of the second century, supper, taking not any thing to eat. was mentioned by Tertullia Then the Lord Jesus asked him what milar anachronisms are poin he was afraid of.' Joseplı replied, Be- by Mr. Jones, in various par cause I bave lost my labour in the New Method of settling the work which I have been about these nical Authority of the New two years.' Jesus said to him, Fear not, neither be cast down; do thou lay ment, to which want of roo hold on one side of the throne, and í pels us necessarily to re will the other, and we will bring it to reader. See also s 1. su; its just dimensious. And when Joseph some additional instances had done as the Lord Jesus said, and chronism. each of them had with strength drawn his side, the throne obeyed, and was the New Testament is an i

5. The style of the aut brouglit to the proper dimensions of the table proof of its authe place : which miracle, when they who stood by saw, they were astonished, whereas the style of the and praised God. The throne was made evangelical compilations i of the same wood, which was in being different from, or contrary in Solomon's time, viz. wood adorned of the genuine writings of with various shapes and figures." thor or authors whose nau . pbal New Testament confirms this To the Editor of the ChristianObserver. remark; but especially the pre- The awful and affecting event tended Gospel of Nicodemus, and mentioned by St. Luke, chapter the Epistles of Paul to Seneca. xxii. verse 44-" His sweat was,

(1.) The names, given in the as it were, great drops of blood fall. pseudo-gospel of Nicodemus to ing down to the ground-has been ihose wlio are represented as being the subject of many sceptical ob. Jews, are not Jewish, but either jections, to which it is amply sufGreek, Roman, or of other foreign ficient to reply; first, that even if countries. Such are names of Sum- such a circumstance were impossimaș, Datam, Alexander, Cyrus, ble, the particle woel, translated, Asterius, Antonius, Carus or Cyrus," as it were," perfectly admits of Crippus or Crispus, Charinus, and a figurative meaning; but secondLeothius; which evidevtly indicale ly, that such a circumstance, far imposture. Further, the Gospel of from being impossible, has actually Nicodemus is not extant in Greek: taken place in other instances, or That which is now extant is evident- at least circumstances so analagous ly a translation into yery bald and to it, as to render the account in barbarous Latin.

question fully credible, even if it (2.) Nothing can be more unlike had not the sanction of holy Writ the known style of the confessedly to support it. By consulting genuine epistles, than is the style Poole and other commentators, of the spurious epistles bearing the reader will find several extheir names in the Apocryphal New amples in illustration of the sacred Testament. This is so obvious to text,lowhich others might be added every one who is at all acquainted from modern medical publications: with those two writers, that it is but it is not, I believe, generally unnecessary to multiply examples. known that Voltaire himself has narThe epistles attributed to Paul rated and attested a fact which ought have not the least yestige of his for ever tostop the mouths of infidels gravity, but are rather compliments of minor magnitude. Speaking and instructions. Further, the sub- . of Charles the Ninth of France, in scriptions of the letters are very bis Universal History, he saysunlike those used by the supposed

“ He died in bis twenty-fifth year: authors in their genuine epistles. bis disorder was of a very remarkThus, in the First Epistle of Seneca, able kind; the blood oozed out of the subscription is, Bene te valere, all his pores. This malady, of frater, cupio, - I wish your welfare, which there have been other inmy brother,—which was an appel- stances, was owing either to exlation exclusively in use among cessive fear, or to violent agitation, Christians. And in St. Paul's Fifth or to a feverish and melancholy Epistle to Seneca, he concludes with, temperament." It is not an unimVale, devotissime magister,-Fare- portant corroboration of the truth well, most respected master; which of the sacred Scriptures, that they is not only contradictory to the relate with perfect simplicity, and Apostle's usual mode of concluding without note or explanation, cirlis letters, but also most barbar- cumstances which, at the time they ous Latinity, such as did not exist were recorded, must have appeared in the Roman language till several to most readers absolutely incredihundred years after the time of ble, but which have been subsePaul and Seneca,

quently illustrated and proved by (To be continu ed.)

the researches of Christians, and even by the incidental admission of infidels themselves.

B. R. F.

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