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or no value; and that they never were received by the sounder part of Christians." Now, if with this, which is advanced after the most minute and diligent examination, we compare what the came cautious writer had before said of our received Scriptures, "that in the works of three only of the above-mentioned Fathers, there are more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, than of all the works of Cicero in the writers of all characters for several ages;” and if with the marks of obscurity or condemnation, which accompanied the mention of the several apocryphal Christian writings, when they happened to be mentioned at all, we contrast what Dr Lardner's work completely and in detail makes out concerning the writings which we defend, and what, having so made out, he thought himself authorised in his conclusion to assert, that these books were not only received from the beginning, but received with the greatest respect; have been publicly and solemnly read in the assemblies of Christians throughout the world, in every age, from that time to this; early translated into the languages of divers countries and people; commentaries writ to explain and illustrate them; quoted by way of proof in all arguments of a religious nature; recommended to the
perusal of unbelievers, as containing the authentic account of the Christian doctrine;—when we attend, I say, to this representation, we perceive in it not only full proof of the early notoriety of these books, but a clear and sensible line of discrimination, which separates these from the pretensions of any others.
The Epistles of St Paul stand particularly' free of any doubt or confusion that might arise from this source. Until the conclusion of the fourth century, no intimation appears of any attempt whatever being made to counterfeit these writings; and then it appears only of a single and obscure instance. Jerome, who flourished in the year 392, has this expression: “ Legunt quidam et ad Laodicenses; sed ab omnibus exploditur;" there is also an Epistle to the Laodiceans, but it is rejected by every body.* Theodoret, who wrote in the year 423, speaks of this Epistle in the same terms. † Beside these, I know not whether any ancient writer mentions it. It was certainly unnoticed during the first three centuries of the church; and when it came afterwards to be mentioned, it was mentioned only to show, that, though such a writing did exist, it obtained no credit. It is probable that the forgery to which Jerome alludes, is the Epistle which we now have under that title. If so, as hath been already observed,
Lardner, vol. x, p 103. + Ibid, vol. xi, p. 88.
it is nothing more than a collection of sentences from the genuine Epistles; and was perhaps, at first, rather the exercise of some idle pen, than any serious attempt to impose a forgery upon the public. Of an Epistle to the Corinthians under St Paul's name, which was brought into Europe in the present century, antiquity is entirely silent. It was unheard of for sixteen centuries; and at this day, though it be extant, and was first found in the Armenian language, it is not, by the Christians of that country, received into their Scriptures. I hope, after this, that there is no reader who will think there is any competition of credit, or of external proof, between these and the received Epistle; or rather, who will not acknowledge the evidence of authenticity to be confirmed by the want of success which attended imposture.
When we take into our hands the letters which the suffrage and consent of antiquity hath thus transmitted to us, the first thing that strikes our attention is the air of reality and business, as well as of seriousness and conviction, which pervades the whole. Let the sceptic read them. If he be not sensible of these qualities in them, the argument can have no weight with him. If he be; if he perceive in almost every page the language of a mind actuated by real occasions, and operating upon real circumstances, I would wish it to be observed, that the proof which arises from this perception is not to be deemed occult or imaginary, because it is incapable of being drawn out in words, or of being conveyed to the apprehension of the reader, in any other way than by sending him to the books themselves.
And here, in its proper place, comes in the argument which it has been the office of these pages to unfold. St Paul's Epistles are connected with the history by their particularity, and by the numerous circumstances which found in them. When we descend to an examination and comparison of these circumstances, we not only observe the history and the Epistles to be independent documents, unknown to, or at least unconsulted by, each other, but we find the substance, and often-times very minute articles, of the history, recognized in the Epistles, by allusions and references, which can neither be imputed to design, nor, without a foundation in truth, be accounted for by accident; by hints and expressions, and single words dropping as it were fortuitously from the pen of the writer or drawn forth, each by some occasion proper to the place in which it occurs, but widely removed from any view to consistency or agreement. These, we know, are
effects which reality naturally produces, but which, without reality at the bottom, can hardly be conceived to exist.
When therefore, with a body of external evidence, which is relied
upon, and which experience proves may safely be relied upon, in appreciating the credit of ancient writings, we combine characters of genuineness and originality which are not found, and which, in the nature and order of things, cannot be expected to be found in spurious compositions; whatever difficulties we may meet with in other topics of the Christian evidence, we can have little in yielding our assent to the following conclusions:- That there was such a person as St Paul; that he lived in the age which we ascribe to him; that he went about preaching the religion of which Jesus Christ was the founder; and that the letters which we now read were actually written by him upon the subject, and in the course of that his ministry.
And if it be true that we are in possession of the very letters which St Paul wrote, let us consider what confirmation they afford to the Christian history. In my opinion, they substantiate the whole transaction. The great object of modern research is to come at the epistolary correspondence of the times. Amidst the obscurities, the silence, or the contradictions of history, if a letter can be found, we regard it as the discovery of a land-mark; as that by which we can correct, adjust, or supply the imperfections and uncertainties of other accounts. One cause of the superior credit which is attributed to letters is this, that the facts which they disclose generally come out incidentally, and therefore without design to mislead the public by false or exaggerated accounts.
This reason may be applied to St Paul's Epistles with as much justice as to any letters whatever. Nothing could be farther from the intention of the writer than to record any part of his history. That his history was in fact made public by these letters, and has by the same means been transmitted to future ages, is a secondary and unthought of effect. The sincerity, therefore, of the Apostle's declarations cannot reasonably be disputed; at least we are sure that it was not vitiated by any desire of setting himself off to the public at large. But these letters form a part of the muniments of Christianity, as much to be valued for their contents as for their originality. A more inestimable treasure the care of antiquity could not have sent down to us. Beside the proof they afford of the general reality of St Paul's history, of the knowledge which the author of the Acts of the Apostles had obtained of that his
tory, and the consequent probability that he was, what he professes himself to have been, a companion of the Apostle's; beside the support they lend to these important inferences, they meet specifically some of the principal objections upon which the adversaries of Christianity have thought proper to rely. In particular they show
1. That Christianity was not a story set on foot amidst the confusions which attended and immediately preceded the destruction of Jerusalem; when many extravagant reports were circulated, when men's minds were broken by terror and distress, when amidst the tumults that surrounded them inquiry was impracticable. These letters show incontestably, that the religion had fixed and established itself before this state of things took place.
II. Whereas it hath been insinuated, that our Gospels may have been made up of reports and stories which were current at the time, we may observe that, with respect to the Epistles, this is impossible. 'A man cannot write the history of his own life from reports; nor, what is the same thing, be led by reports to refer to passages and transactions in which he states himself to bave been immediately present and active. I do not allow that this insinuation is applied to the historical part of the New Testament with any colour of justice or probability; but I say, that to the Epistles it is not applicable at all.
III. These letters prove that the converts to Christianity were not drawn from the barbarous, the mean, or the ignorant set of men which the representations of infidelity would sometimes make them. We learn from letters the character not only of the writer, but, in some measure, of the persons to whom they are written. To suppose that these letters were addressed to a rude tribe, incapable of thought or reflection, is just as reasonable as to suppose Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding to have been written for the instruction of savages. Whatever may be thought of these letters in other respects, either of diction or argument, they are certainly removed as far as possible from the habits and comprehension of a barbarous people.
IV. St Paul's history-I mean so much of it as may be collected from his letters--is so implicated with that of the other Apostles, and with the substance indeed of the Christian history itself, that I apprehend it will be found impossible to admit St Paul's story (I do not speak of the miraculous part of it) to be true, and yet to reject the rest as fabulous. For instance, can any one believe that there was such a man as Paul, a preacher of Christianity in the age which we assign to him, and not believe that there was also at the same time such men as Peter and James, and other Apostles, who had been companions of Christ during his life, and who, after his death, published and avowed the same things concerning him which Paul taught? Judea, and especially Jerusalem, was the scene of Christ's ministry. The witnesses of his miracles lived there. St Paul, by his own account, as well as that of his historian, appears to have frequently visited that city; to have carried on a communication with the church there; to have associated with the rulers and elders of that church, who were some of them Apostles; to have acted, as occasions offered, in correspondence, and sometimes in conjunction with them. Can it, after this, be doubted, but that the religion and the general facts relating to it, which St Paul appears by his letters to have delivered to the several churches which he established at a distance, were at the same time taught and published at Jerusalem itself
, the place where the business was transacted; and taught and published by those who had attended the founder of the institution in his miraculous, or pretendedly miraculous ministry ?
It is observable, for so it appears both in the Epistles, and from the Acts of the Apostles, that Jerusalem, and the society of believers in that city, long continued the centre from which the missionaries of the religion issued, with which all other churches maintained a correspondence and connexion, to which they referred their doubts, and to whose relief, in times of public distress, they remitted their charitable assistance. This observation I think material, because it proves that this was not the case of giving out accounts in one country of what is transacted in another, without affording the hearers an opportunity of knowing whether the things related were credited by any, or even published, in the place where they are reported to have passed.
1. St Paul's letters furnish evidence (and what better evidence than a man's own letters can be desired?) of the soundness and sobriety of his judgment. His caution in distinguishing between the occasional suggestions of inspiration, and the ordinary exercise of his natural understanding, is without example in the history of human enthusiasm. His morality is every where calm, pure, and rational; adapted to the condition, the activity, and the business of social life, and of its various relations; free from the over-scrupulousness and austerities of superstition, and from, what was more, perhaps, to be apprehended, the abstractions of quietism, and the soarings and ex