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LECT.

NEW TESTAMENT

171

LEct. vi.) NEW TESTAMENT.

I take up any celebrated writings of this kind: Davila's History of the Civil Wars of FranceLord Clarendon's History of the Great Rebellion-Father Paul's History of the Council of Trent-and I ask, what are the grounds on which the credibility of such works rests ?

Are the books themselves authentic ?-Are the principal facts in them supported by other testimonies ?-Do the histories themselves, and the character of the writers, furnish satisfactory proof of trust-worthiness ? — These are the questions which lead to the natural evidences of the truth and fidelity of a narrative.

In a similar way then, I proceed as to the credibility of the New Testament books. I leave for the present the divine authority, inspiration, and other most important subsequent considerations. I confine myself to one plain point, Are the Christian writers deserving of entire credit in their narratives?

To prove this, I appeal to the GENUINENESS AND AUTHENTICITY of the books, as already established to all OTHER ACCESSIBLE SOURCES of information to the chARACTER AND CIRCUMSTANCES of the sacred writers themselves.

When I shall have gone through these particulars, a few observations will evince the au. thenticity and credibility of the books of the 172

AUTHENTICI TY PROVES

AUTHENTICITY PROVES [Lect. VI.

CT

Old Testament, and the fidelity of our English authorized Translation, and conclude this first division of our whole course.

au.

I. I appeal to the AUTHENTICITY OF THE BOOKS of the New Testament, as involving their credibility.

l. For it is very rare to meet with any authentic works of the historical kind, observes a profound writer, in which the principal facts are untrue. Men who publish openly to the world, before all their countrymen, under their own name, grave historical works, can have no motive, no hope of being read, no possibility of compassing any one end, if they falsify the principal facts of their narrative. I know, not that we have a single instance upon record of such an attempt. And much less is this possible, when the history itself is contemporary, and the writers record the facts of their own times, before the face of their own people and nation.

If Davila, or Lord Clarendon, or Father Paul, had falsified the principal events of their histories; (for, as to minor questions, errors in judgment, overstatements, the other ordinary effects of human frailty, I say nothing ;) but if

1 Hartley

they had falsified the PRINCIPAL FACTS of their histories, what would it have availed ? Who would have given the least credit to their books? What would have been the consequences of their dishonesty, but instant shame and disgrace, without the accomplishment of one single object ?

The'attempt to falsify contemporary writings, becomes the more impracticable, in proportion as interest is excited, prejudices are awakened, new modes of thinking and acting are introduced, and established habits broken up.

Then I say, that the gospel history, published by eye-witnesses, at the very time, under their own names, before the face of mankind, enemies as well as friends, for the establishment of the Christian religion, being authentic and genuine, is therefore credible—the main facts of it are true.

2. But, further, if the New Testament be authentic, the extraordinary prominence and importance, of the principal facts, and the very small number of those facts, prove the credibility of them.

The Christian books do not treat of any long and difficult and remote scene of history, of a multitude of complicated events involved in secret negotiations and transactions, as all our Histories of England, for example, do. But they record a few, a very few principal facts, in a period of time extremely brief; but these facts, so broad, so notorious, of such prodigious importance, so immediately affecting the business and bosoms of men, that it was utterly impossible that any imposition could be practised. About six or seren priacipal events comprehend every thing. The wonderful birth of an extraordinary person, whom the apostles call the Son of God-his series of wonderful works wrought before the eves of mankind-his holy and beneteent lite his violent death by crucibxion-his resurrection—the descent of the Holy Ghost. pen the fuctirg of these few facts, the apostles go forth to promulgate the Gospel and change the religion of the world; and whilst thus emploved, pablish the account of the several events before the eyes of those who had witnessed them. With such a design, it was morally impossible that the apostles it they really wrote these histories, as we have abundantly proved, and as we now consider to be admitted, I could bare falsified a tew tacts of such prominence, and awakening such intense interest. The authenticity proves the credibility

3. But, yet more, the positive and varied testimonies which were brought forward to prove that the books of the New Testament were genuine, evince that the chief matters of them are credible. We marshalled those testimonies, indeed, only to support the proposition then before us, the authentic origin of the New Testament; but they were testimonies, in most instances, more properly belonging to the credibility. In truth, the arguments for the genuineness of the sacred writings are so interwoven with those for their trust-worthiness, and they support each other in such a variety of ways, that it is extremely difficult to keep the proper distinction, so as not to anticipate and prove more than the exactness of logical method requires; or, in other words, the inconsistency of the contrary supposition is so great, that it can scarcely stand long enough to be confuted. But it is quite clear that the Christian writers of the early centuries do not appeal to the New Testament merely as the production of the apostles, but as the undoubted record of the facts of the gospel history. Nor do the Jewish and Heathen oppo

? See Dr. Gregory's Letters, vol. i. p. 89, &c. The remark is applicable to the entire argument—all the parts of it hang together. The miracles, more especially, as we shall see in the next Lecture, rest on the general credibility of the books of the New Testament.

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