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THE DIRECT PROOF OF THE AUTHENTICITY
OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
ACTS XXVI. 26.
For the king knoweth of these things, before whom
also I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
We offered in the last Lecture some general observations by which the argument for the authenticity of the New Testament might be brought down to the plainest understanding. The proofs on which those observations ultimately rest, together with other arguments in support of the same conclusion, are now to be adverted to. Our discourse will, therefore, be of a different character from the preceding ; though touching on many of the same topics. We then confined ourselves to a few remarks addressed to the common sense and
feelings of men. We now come to a more calm statement of some of the proofs which lie at the foundation of these appeals.
Let me beg your attention.
D UP STEP BY STEP FRO M THE PRESENT
1. The testimony to our sacred books can be TRACED UP STEP BY STEP FROM THE PRESENT TIME TO THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES.
We asserted this in our general observations. How the proof stands will now be seen.
Let us take first our own country. No one can for an instant doubt that the books which we receive in the year 1828, as the genuine writings of the apostles, were so received 300 years before, at the period of Cranmer and Ridley, and the other reformers.
I go back a century and a half from that time, and ask whether they were not acknowledged just as universally in the days of John Wickliffe, in the fourteenth century, who translated these very books into the English language ? The fact is undeniable.
I ascend next to the time of Grosseteste, the celebrated Bishop of Lincoln, and the opponent of Pope Innocent III. in 1240; or to the days of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury under William Rufus, who wrote a treatise against those who mocked at the inspiration of the scriptures; and I ask, were not the same books universally admitted to be authentic then?
i Wickliffe died in the vear 1384.
I go up to the reign of Alfred the Great, who founded or restored the University of Oxford, and translated the Old and New Testament into Saxon, in the ninth century. I suppose the very fact of translating our books will be allowed as a proof of the admission of their genuineness.
I find myself next at the age of the Venerable English Presbyter Bede, born in the year 672, whose fame filled the whole Christian world, and who has left comments on the epistles of St. Paul;—from him we come to Gregory the Great in 590, who sent over Augustine and his companions for the conversion of our ancestors, on the footing of the authenticity of the scriptures. This brings us up to the reception of the books by the Christian churches on the Continent through Gregory, Theodoret, and Fulgentius, in the sixth century; St. Austin, Jerome, and Chrysostom, in the fifth; Ambrose, Athanasius, and Eusebius, of the fourth ; Cyprian, Origen, and Tertullian, of the third ; till we reach Irenæus, (from A. D. 97 to 202, who was the disciple of Polycarp, the follower of St. John.
Thus the testimony from the present time up to the very days of the apostles, is notorious to
all mankind, an unbroken chain, where each link is distinctly visible. In
And not only so, but several different series of testimonies may be traced up in the various countries of Christendom; each independent of the rest. One series in Italy, through Gregory up to Clement of Rome, in the first century. A second in France, through Hilary to Irenæus, Bishop of Lyon. A third in Africa, through Fulgentius, Austin, and Cyprian, to Clemens Alexandrinus and Tertullian.” A fourth in Syria, through Ephrem Syrus to Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch in 107. A fifth in Asia Minor, through Anatolius and Pamphilus to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, martyred in 168. All these witnesses testify, not merely that they received our books from their immediate ancestors, but received them as the authentic writings of their respective authors, acknowledged in all the Christian churches from the age of the apostles, and acted upon from that very time, as the rule of faith and practice. The force of this testimony is irresistible to a fair and candid mind.
. Born about the year 150. s See Lardner, Less, Michaelis, Paley, &c. for the authorities. To the same authors, and to the admirable and laborious T. H. Horne in particular, I refer for 'many of the materials which I have employed in the present and following Lectures.
II. But I proceed to notice the PROGRESS OF THE SETTLEMENT OF THE SACRED CANON, as a further proof of the authenticity of the New Testament.
For if we can discern care and discrimination in the reception of the books of the New Testament; if we find they were gradually admitted from deliberate conviction and as circumstances naturally called for a decision, we shall have a further ground of confidence in the testimonies we have adduced.
The twenty-seven books of the New Testament, composed by eight different authors, during a space of about sixty years,“ would require some considerable time to reach all the various churches in every part of the known world; especially considering the poverty of the first Christians, the state of persecution in which they frequently were placed, and the wars which separated kingdoms and nations.
In the fathers therefore of the first age who were contemporaries with the apostles, the references to these books are less formal and less numerous than in the succeeding ones, when education had entwined the language of the New Testament around all the habits and associations of thought in Christians. All the books
* The Gospel of St. Matthew was published about the year 38, the Revelation of St. John about 96.