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what has been so often proved, its authenticity.
And, undoubtedly, this is the shortest, and in some respects, the easiest course. We should then only have to prove the inspiration of the scriptures from the impress of the divine hand which is upon them, from the numerous arguments employed by our Lord and his apostles in support of their mission, and from the divine effects which Christianity produces. This is what we incidentally do in almost every sermon, and in common cases it is sufficient. But such a plan will not answer my present design, which is to lead the young, step by step, over the primary grounds of their faith, and thus to bring them to a full persuasion of the nature and obligation of the Christian religion.
Nor indeed need we fear the consideration, in their proper place, of any of those previous historical evidences which the goodness of God has furnished us with, as the first steppingstones to our faith. It is in this way we act every day in all those grammatical, geographical, and chronological enquiries, which are connected with the just interpretation of the language of the scriptures. Considered with a humble and teachable mind, and for their proper uses, they directly subserve the most
practical purposes of revelation. It is thus that the Christian church, from the very days of the apostles, as we observed in our introductory discourse, has been accustomed to act as to the external evidences. At first, indeed, the authenticity of the sacred books did not come into question. Even heathen and Jewish adversaries, during the first four centuries, admitted and argued upon their authenticity. This is to us, at the distance of 1800 years, a capital point-a point which places the whole Christian argument beyond dispute. Still, in each age, as it carried the church further from the origin of the religion, the authenticity required proof, and the series of testimony to this and other historical facts, demanded much care to collect and arrange. But this was always done with the utmost cheerfulness; for the purpose of passing on securely, as we design to do in the present course, to the proofs arising from the actual beneficial effects of Christianity on the hearts and lives of men. .
Let us then consider how the question of the authenticity of the New Testament, difficult as it may seem at first, really stands.
The apostle Paul, in the words of my text, clearly refers to a test of authenticity, and calls on the first disciples to receive his letter on
the footing of this test and none other - The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle, so I write. He adds a similar attestation to his Epistle to the Corinthians, The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. And so to that to the Colossians,
The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds.
We find also in the close of the Epistle to the Romans, the amanuensis or secretary of the apostle, distinguishing himself from the sacred author, 1 Tertius who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.
The apostle also, on one occasion, expressly cautions his converts against receiving any unauthenticated writing in bis name: Now we beseech you, brethren, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, neither by spirit nor by word, nor by letter as from us.
The question of authenticity is, therefore, considered most important by the sacred writer himself, and admitted to be a separate question from the proof afforded by the divine contents of the writing, or the holy effects which it produced.
Then I conclude there must be a propriety, and even necessity, on fit occasions, of considering this first branch of the Christian argument, as well as the succeeding ones; and that till this first point is settled, nothing else can be considered in an orderly and legitimate manner.
I think we may also conclude, that if there be ordinary human means of ascertaining the authenticity of ancient writings, upon which men are constantly acting in their most important concerns, it is probable that the Almighty would leave the authenticity of the New Testament to rest upon the same grounds. For it appears a constant part of the Divine conduct not to interpose in an extraordinary way, when the ordinary course of his providence furnishes sufficient means of guidance; but rather to leave men to care and enquiry and diligence, accompanied with that humble temper of heart which will guard against pride and obstinacy, and lead them to use the divine revelation, when ascertained, for the practical purposes of faith and obedience.
The question then of authenticity or genuineness,' now before us, is a purely historical one. I postpone for the present, credibility, divine authority, inspiration, internal excellencythese, in themselves much more important,
I use the words authenticity and genuineness (after Bishop Marsh and most foreign divines) for the truth of authorship; and I use credibility, for the trust which may be reposed in the matters which an author relates.
will be considered in their place, and will derive tenfold force from this previous enquiry. All I now have to do, is to show that—THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ARE AUTHENTIC; that they were written by their professed authors, and published, as they are stated to have been, in the first century of the Christian æra.
On this question I shall offer, on the present occasion, only some GENERAL CONSIDERAtions, reserving more particular proofs for the next lecture.
I. I ask then, in the first place, in what way are OTHER ANCIENT WORKS ASCERTAINED TO BE THE PRODUCTIONS OF THEIR RESPECTIVE AUTHORS, and to have been published at the time when they profess to have been ?
I take as an example, our venerable Book of Common Prayer. How do I know that it was composed by the Martyrs and Confessors of the English church 300 years since, at the period of the reformation in the 16th century? I answer, because we received it, without contradiction, from our immediate forefathers as the works of these writers, and they from their ancestors, till we come up to the date of publication. I answer, because it was a matter of history at the time; because contemporary au