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the whole volume of inspiration, would not require the adoption of any other principle than that on which he is proceeding.”—Pp. 116, 117.
K, p. 61. What the object, or even the intended import, of this clause is, we are completely at a loss to understand. For, in no respect whatever, so far as we can perceive, are the precepts of the law,” whether by these be meant those of the moral, or even of the ceremonial law, “specially employed in the Gospel, to any purpose for which they were not originally intended.” Both were added because of transgression:” the one being designed not only for the regulation of the heart and life, but for convincing men of their sins and sinfulness; and the other, in all their most important bearings, for directing them to the means of pardon and spiritual purification, through the adumbrations of the great sacrifice of propitiation, in the end of the ages, which they contained; so that both may be regarded, as schoolmasters to bring men to Christ. And to what purposes but these, are they ever employed in the Gospel? The one is still intended at once to convince of sin, and lead to righteousness; and the other have been substantiated in the mediatorial character and work of our Divine Redeemer. PART II.
THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
METHOD OF SETTLING THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
At first view, it would seem that there would be found much less difficulty in determining the Canon of the New Testament, than that of the Old; seeing that the books which compose the former are much more recent than those of the latter. And we have historical records which reach up to the time when the Canon of the New Testament was formed, but in regard to most of the books of the Old Testament, there are extant no collateral documents, nor any authentic histories, which go back to a period within some hundred years of the time when they were penned. But however plausible this may appear, it is entirely fallacious; and, when we come to examine into the Canonical authority of the books of the New Testament, much greater difficulties are found to exist than were encountered in establishing the Canon of the Old Testament. The reasons of this difference are such as these:
1. The Canon of the Old Testament was settled by Ezra, an inspired man; but the books of the New Testament were collected into the Canon, after inspiration had ceased, in the Christian church.
2. The Canon of the Old Testament received the sanction of Christ and his apostles; but when the Canon of the New Testament was completed, all the apostles were dead.
3. The number of Apocryphal books which claim admission into the Canon of the Old Testament is inconsiderable, and the invalidity of their title easily demonstrated; but the Apocryphal books of the New Testament are very numerous; and some of them have a much higher claim to Canonical authority, than any of those obscure books which claim admittance into the Old Testament.
Toland, in his famous catalogue of the books of the New Testament, lays in a claim for more than eighty, which he pretends ought to be received into the Canon.
While there was a universal agreement, in the primitive church, in regard to the Canonical authority of most of the books of the New Testament, there were some who doubted respecting the Epistle of James, the Second of Peter, the Second and Third of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Revelation.
4. There has been, moreover, much more doubt and controversy respecting some of the genuine books of the New Testament, than ever existed in regard to any contained in the Jewish Canon.
5. While some of the ancient Fathers disputed the right of some of the books which have been received into the Canon, some modern authors, of no inconsiderable learning, have been of opinion, that several, which were formerly excluded, ought yet to be received. This opinion was explicitly declared by Archbishop Wake, and Mr Whiston, to say nothing about Toland, who was an enemy to the gospel.*
6. To all which we may add, that some moderns, of great name, have expressed doubts respecting some of the books now in the Canon of the New Testament; as Luther, for å while, rejected the Epistle of James; and Erasmus, Calvin, Cajetan, and Kirstenius, hesitated respecting the authority of the book of Revelation; and J. D. Michaelis rejected this book from the Canon, and expressed himself very unfavourably respecting the gospels of Mark and Luke.
After what has been said, in the former part of this work, respecting the importance of settling the Canon on correct principles, it will be unnecessary to add any thing here on that subject, except to say, that this inquiry cannot be less interesting in regard to the New Testament, than to the Old. It is a subject which calls for our utmost diligence and impartiality. It is one which we cannot neglect with a good conscience; for the inquiry is nothing less than to ascertain, what revelation God has made to us, and where it is to be found.
And, as to the proper method of settling the Canon of the New Testament, the same course must be pursued, as has been done in respect to the Old. We must have recourse to If, among
* See Jones, on the Canon.
authentic history, and endeavour to ascertain what books were received as genuine by the primitive church and early Fathers. The contemporaries, and immediate successors of the Apostles, are the most competent witnesses in this case. these, there is found to have been a general agreement, as to what books were Canonical, it will go far to satisfy us respecting the true Canon; for it cannot be supposed that they could easily be deceived in a matter of this sort. A general consent of the early Fathers, and of the primitive church, therefore, furnishes conclusive evidence on this point, and is that species of evidence which is least liable to fallacy or abuse. The learned Huet has, therefore, assumed it as a maxim, “ That every book is genuine, which was esteemed genuine by those who lived nearest to the time when it was written, and by the ages following, in a continued series. The reasonableness of this rule will appear more evident, when we consider the great esteem with which these books were at first received; the constant public reading of them in the churches; and the early version of them into other languages.
The high claims of the Romish church, in regard to the authority of fixing the Canon, has already been disproved, as it relates to the books of the Old Testament; and the same arguments apply with their full force to the Canon of the New Testament, and need not be repeated. It may not be amiss, however, to hear from distinguished writers of that communion, what their real opinion is on this subject. HEUMAN ASserts, “That the Sacred Scriptures, without the authority of the church, have no more authority than Æsop's Fables;” and BAILLIE, " That he would give no more credit to St Matthew than to Livy, unless the church obliged him.” To the same purpose speak Pighius, Eckius, and BELLARMINE, and many others of their most distinguished writers. By the authority of the church, they understand a power lodged in the church of Rome, to determine what books shall be received as the word of God; than which it is scarcely possible to conceive of any thing more absurd.
In avoiding this extreme, some Protestants have verged towards the opposite, and have asserted, that the only, or principal evidence of the Canonical authority of the Sacred Scriptures, is, their internal evidence. Even some churches went so far as to insert this opinion in their public confessions." Now it ought not to be doubted, that the internal evidence such person
* Demonstratio Evang. | See the Confession of the Reformed Gallican Church.
of the Scriptures is exceedingly strong; and that when the mind of the reader is truly illuminated, it derives from this source the most unwavering conviction of their truth and divine authority; but that every sincere Christian should be able in all cases, by this internal light, to distinguish between Canonical books and such as are not, is surely no very safe or reasonable opinion. Suppose that a thousand books of various kinds, including the Canonical, were placed before any sincere Christian, would he be able, without mistake, to select from this mass the twenty-seven books of which the New Testament is composed, if he had nothing to guide him but the internal evidence? Would every
be able at once to determine, whether the book of Ecclesiastes, or of Ecclesiasticus, belonged to the Canon of the Old Testament, by internal evidence alone? It is certain, that the influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary to produce a true faith in the word of God'; but to make this the only criterion by which to judge of the Canonical authority of a book, is certainly liable to strong objections. The tendency of this doctrine is to enthusiasm, and the consequence of acting upon it, would be to unsettle, rather than establish, the Canon of Holy Scripture; for it would be strange if some persons, without any other guidance than their own spiritual taste, would not pretend that other books, besides those long received, were Canonical, or would be disposed to reject some part of these. If this evidence were as infallible as some would have it to be, then the authenticity of every disputed text, as well as the Canonical authority of every book, might be ascertained by it. But we have already seen, that a few eminently pious men doubted, for a while, respecting the Canonical authority of some genuine books of the New Testament.
And if the internal evidence were the only criterion of Canonical authority to which we could resort, there would remain no possibility of convincing any person of the inspiration of a book, unless he could perceive in it the internal evidence of a divine origin. In many cases this species of evidence can scarcely be said to exist; as when, for wise purposes, God directs or inspires a prophet to record genealogical tables—or even in the narration of common events, I do not see how it can be determined from internal evidence, that the history is written by inspiration; for the only circumstance in which an inspired narrative differs from a faithful human history, is, that the one is infallible, and the other is not; but the existence of this infallibility, or the absence of it, is not apparent from