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report of the senses; as that the magnet attracts iron. Does it relate to intellectual things, founded on invariable relations? I arrive at it by just reasoning; as that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. Does it relate to matters of fact, as the publication of a certain book, by a certain author, in a certain age? I appeal to testimony.
Such is my first general observation. We prove the authenticity of the New Testament by the same kind of arguments (though much stronger) as those by which men are uniformly governed in all like cases.
But it may be said, books are sometimes spurious or unauthentic; what then is the manner in which a fictitious work may be discovered ? This leads me to a
II. General consideration. Not ONE OF THE MARKS BY WHICH CRITICS ARE ACCUSTOMED TO DETECT SPURIOUS WRITINGS, APPLIES TO OUR SACRED BOOKS.
We think we have reason, says Michaelis, to hesitate about the authenticity of a work, when well-founded doubts have been raised from its first appearance in the world, whether it proceeded from the author to whom it is ascribed. When the immediate friends of the alleged author, who were best able to decide upon the subject, denied it to be his. When a long series of years has elapsed after his death, in which the book was unknown, and in which it must have been unavoidably quoted, if it had existed. When the style is different from that of his other works, or if none remain, from what might have been reasonably expected. When events are recorded or referred to which happened later than the time of the supposed author. When opinions are advanced which are contrary to those which he is known to maintain in his other works.
Now, not one of these marks of spuriousness applies to the New Testament. From the first appearance of it in the world, no doubts were raised whether it proceeded from the apostles and evangelists.
The friends and followers of those authors, who were best able to decide upon the subject, affirm it to be theirs.
No series of years elapsed after the death of the apostles in which the books of it were unknown or were not quoted and referred to.
The style is exactly what might reasonably be expected.
The events referred to are precisely those,
and none other, which occurred at the time when they were professedly written.
The opinions advanced in each book are in unison with all other writings of each author.
But this is not all. Even in legal deeds the marks of suspicion laid down by lawyers serve to strengthen the argument for the genuineness of our sacred books. A French writer, in publishing very lately the manuscript of an English author, by no means favourable to Christianity,' lays down nearly the same indications of spuriousness with those established in the literary question by Michaelis. So that not one criterion of fiction could be proved, even in a court of judicature, on our sacred books. The same author adds, “In a question relating to the authenticity of a deed, the general presumption is in its favour; we may even say, on a consideration of the recorded cases, that false ones are of rare occurrence.” If, therefore, the presumption is in favour of authenticity, and instances of spuriousness, even in the documents employed in legal affairs, are rare, we have the strongest reason for assuming, that in the large Book of the New Testament, consisting of many different writings, composed during a * Mr. Jeremy Bentham. 5 Preuves Judiciaires, tom. i. 308.
period of sixty years, and circulated throughout the world, the record is authentic. And this presumption amounts to a certainty, when upon applying all the marks for detecting false deeds, not one sign nor vestige of spuriousness appears. And this leads me to a
III. General remark connected with the last admission. It may be shown, that THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE BEFORE us make it not only improbable, but morally impossible, that our sacred books should be forgeries.
For this, you will observe, is now the alternative. There is no middle course. Either the New Testament is authentic, or it is a base imposition, a vile and wicked fabrication on the most solemn of all subjects. There could be no venial mistake, no unintentional error. There must have been the most express design to deceive mankind. Distressing to the candid and humble mind as the very hearing of such a statement must be, it is necessary to put it. Nay, the very putting of it affords no slight additional presumption in favour of the authenticity of the New Testament to those who know any thing of the sublime discoveries, the holy, precepts, the divine doctrines which constitute the gospel of our Saviour and Lord. It is impossible such writings should be impu
dent and daring forgeries. But this touches on another topic.
The state of the question now before us is this. The sacred books are either the productions of the apostles and evangelists, or they are a direct and barefaced fabrication, composed by impostors of the apostolic or a succeeding age. Now, I affirm that it is morally impossible, from the circumstances of the case, that they could be false productions imposed upon the Christian church.
For, take what age you please, and tell me when such an attempt could have been made.
Could it have been made during the lives of the apostles? What, twenty-seven books, the production of eight distinct authors, palmed upon the very converts of those authors, with whom they were in constant intercourse, during the very period of that intercourse! The supposition refutes itself.
But, could it have been in a subsequent age? Certainly not after the commencement of the third century, when the books were actually in circulation over the world, (as we shall see in the next Lecture,) were read in the churches, transmitted by versions into new languages, preserved as the most precious deposit in the Christian archives ! Could false books have been imposed, under such circumstances, upon