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the outward evidence is, upon the mere style and character of the contents.
Again, M. Angelo Mai, not five years since, discovered in the library of the Vatican at Rome, one of the long lost works of Cicero, the valuable and elaborate Dialogues on the Republic. I find a notice of such a work in the other writings of Cicero : but his contemporaries, and the authors of the following ages, afford me no testimony to its authenticity. I am told that the tyranny of the emperors, jealous of the great principles of liberty asserted in that treatise, silenced Seneca, Quintillian, Pliny, Tacitus. Be it so. For thirteen or fourteen centuries I see nothing of it, except in the very few quotations found in Lactantius, St. Augustine, and Macrobius. In the year 1822, the work is discovered, with a Commentary of St. Austin on the Psalms, written over it crosswise, probably in the sixth century, as was frequently practised at that time, to avoid the expense of parchment. M. Mai publishes it-a French scholar, of the first reputation, eagerly makes a translation, and tells us, “it is sufficient to cast an eye on the simple and learned account which M. Mai gives of his labours, to be convinced of an authenticity materially, I will
8 M. Villemain.
almost say, legally demonstrated.” “But,” adds the critic, “ for men of taste, this authenticity will shine forth yet more in the great characters of patriotic elevation, of genius, and of eloquence, which mark the work. This kind of moral proof is more agreeable to the reader than dissertations on the orthography of an old work, and on the probable dimensions of a letter.” “ The immortal character,” he concludes, “ of the writer of genius and the Roman Consul, which shines in every page, and in the least traits of the work, gives it a sublime authenticity."
On such narrow grounds of external testimony do men proceed. Might I not, then, boldly appeal to the sacred sublimity, the divine wisdom, the unequalled discoveries of grace, the dignity and yet naturalness of style, 'the clearness and force of the arguments, the circumstantial character of the narrative, the unnumbered incidental agreements, the whole cast and impress of truth which characterizes, as we shall see hereafter, the New Testament; and might I not leave it to the practical common sense of every pious mind, to determine whether, even if the external testimony to its authenticity were ever so slight, we might not be permitted to repose securely on the inward
character of genuineness, the holy stamp and seal of truth, the native impress of veracity and trust-worthiness, which commend our sacred books, not to the taste and judgment of a critic merely, but to the enlightened understanding, the best-informed feelings, the conscientious admiration of every candid and serious reader.
But we insist not on this at present. We are now concerned with the argument arising from the various and accumulated external testimony. We shall hereafter unite both kinds of evidences-historical proofs of authenticity beyond any former example, and inward evidences from the character and style of the writings themselves—each so strong, as not to require the other; and yet each in the highest and most complete form ever exhibited to mankind: and we shall maintain, that if men admit antient works every day on the slightest outward proof, they are morally obliged to allow the authenticity of the sacred writings, sustained by every outward and every inward species of evidence.
But, we return to the historical point before us, and ask, whether, it is not for the objector to establish a contrary case, before he can claim the attention of any reasonable person. We ask whether the burden of proof does not lie upon
him. If he take it into his head to deny the authentic origin of the scriptures, let him marshal his distinct witnesses to a falsification; let him show clearly when and WHERE and by WHOM and why these writings were forged, and what are the marks which they exhibit of fiction and imposture. A mere doubt thrown out in the nineteenth century is rather too late.
It is thus men uniformly act in all their most important concerns; the burden of proof lies on him who would disturb the beneficial possession of others. The voice of our ordinary laws warrants such a conduct. It goes, indeed, still further. If a legal deed be of only thirty years' standing, and has conveyed an estate, and the estate has been enjoyed by the party to whom the conveyance transmitted it, such a deed is said, in the language of the profession, to prove itself; that is, you are not required to call any attesting witness to prove the handwriting of the party who executed it, nor any one to prove that of the attesting witnesses; but the deed proves itself, because the concomitant facts are held to show sufficiently its authenticity.
Now, how much more forcibly may the Christian church employ such an argument in the case of the deeds of its spiritual inheritance, the books of the New Testament-an in
heritance which has been enjoyed from age to age, for seventeen or eighteen hundred years-an inheritance, the records of which may be traced distinctly upwards from the present to the apostolic times, an inheritance, where no one mark of a fictitious title has ever been shown, where the circumstances under which it was conveyed make a falsification morally impossible; and in the very language and style of which conveyance, all the shining characters of truth are apparent-how much more, I say, may the Christian church oppose to the unbeliever the uninterrupted enjoyment of its blessings for so many ages, as a bar to his cavils, even without entering into the detail of those testimonies to which we have been referring in this discourse-how much more may he hold that the deed proves itself, and that the objector has no claim in reason to be heard, after Christianity has been conveying down from father to son for eighteen centuries, the assurance of pardon and reconciliation, the promises of life and hope, the sacraments and seals of salvation, the consolations of peace and joy, the rules of holiness and virtue, the pledges of future glory and immortality-blessings, not less real, and incomparably more important than those temporal benefits for which men so eagerly contend. We