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With regard to the fidelity of our English translation, it will be sufficient to say that the
the Old Testament.-3. The Protestant Reformed churches, though they deny their inspiration and divine authority, yet read them, or parts of them, for “example of life and instruction of manners.”—4. Though devoid of divine authority, they are highly valuable as ancient writings, which throw light upon the phraseology of scripture, and upon the manners of the east; and which contain much important historical matter, and many sublime, moral, and religious sentiments, Whereas the Apocryphal Books of the New Testament were 1. Never admitted into the canon even by the Church of Rome; and of course, 2. Never intermingled with the inspired books; 3. They were never allowed to be read in the Protestant churches; 4. Nor do they contain any really valuable matter, either historical or moral.
The Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament, however, though thus superior to those of the New, are yet unanimously rejected by Protestants from the sacred canon, for the following reasons :
1. They were never received into the sacred canon by the Jewish church.-2. Not one of the writers in direct terms lays a claim to inspiration.-3. None of them is extant in Hebrew.–4. They were chiefly written by Alexandrian Jews subsequently to the cessation of the prophetic spirit with the prophet Malachi.-5. No part of them is sanctioned by our Saviour or the apostles, or referred to by them.-6. They were not admitted into the canon of scripture by the Christian church during the four first centuries.—7. When they were allowed to be read in the fifth century, it was with an express mark of degradation, to distinguish them from the inspired books.
After this conclusive testimony of the whole church of
singular care with which it was executed by forty-seven of the most able and learned divines, who had the advantage of consulting six or seven previous English versions, and who performed it under the eyes of all the scholars of every religious party in Christendom, give us the most just grounds of confidence. Moreover, for above 200 years it has received the attestations of all competent judges. The language of the learned and pious Dr. Doddridge, himself a dissenter from our national church, and therefore not biassed in favour of any particular version, (to say nothing of his learning, judgment, candour, and high moral integrity,) may well satisfy us on this point. “I now solemnly tell you, that on a diligent comparison of our translation with the original, we find that of the New Testament, and I might also say that of the Old, in the main faithful and judicious.
God, Jewish and Christian, against them, it is not necessary to detail the internal marks of non-authenticity, and noncredibility. We will only observe that they state many things which are fabulous, contradictory, and directly at variance with the canonical scriptures.—And that they contain many passages which are in themselves false, absurd, and incredible; which are so inconsistent with the relations of all profane historians, that they cannot be admitted without much stronger evidence than belongs to these books.*
* T. H. Horne, vol. i, 706, &c.
You know, indeed, that we do not scruple on some occasions to animadvert upon it; but you also know that these remarks affect not the fundamentals of religion, and seldom reach any farther than the beauty of a figure, or at most, the connexion of an argument. Nay, I can confidently say, that to the best of my knowledge and remembrance, as there is no copy of the Greek, so neither is there any translation of the New Testament, which I have seen, from which all the principal facts and doctrines of Christianity might not be learned, so far as the knowledge of them is necessary to salvation, or even to some considerable degree of edification in piety. Nor do I except from this remark even that most erroneous and corrupt version published by the English Jesuits at Rheims, (A. D. 1582,) which is undoubtedly one of the worst that ever appeared in our language.”
Thus far then have we proceeded in our view of the Evidences of Christianity. We have shown the authenticity and credibility of the Holy Bible; that is, that the sacred books of it were really written by the authors whose names they bear, and contain a true and faithful history of facts as they occurred. Here let us pause and ask ourselves whe
22 Dodd. Evidences.
ther, so far as we have gone, OUR FAITH PRACTICALLY CORRESPONDS with what we have ad mitted in argument. You have been instructed from your infancy in the things which are most surely believed amongst us, as those were to whom St. Lúke, in 'the text, addressed his gospel. The authenticity and credibility of these books, and the matters they contain, have been laid before you, that you may know the certainty of the divine facts as they were delivered by those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. Does then your personal and practical persuasion of the truth of all you read in the Holy Scriptures, answer to the means of certainty thus afforded you?
You receive daily the witness of men; does the witness of God weigh proportionably on your minds? It might have pleased God that all the external proofs of the authenticity and credibility of his word should have been swept away by the besom of time, and that we should have been left to the proofs deducible from the books themselves, and their effects upon mankind.' . Does the exuberance of the divine goodness in the preservation of evidences from all imaginable sources of testimony, excite your gratitude, overcome your scruples, augment faith, quicken love, promote obedience ?
If we repose and act in human affairs daily VOL. I.
on every degree of probability, even the lowest, do we act on the strong probability, or rather, the unanswerable moral certainty which sheds its glory on the book of God?
Alas! how weak is the faith of multitudes, how infirm and uncertain their judgments, how inconsistent and indecisive their conduct! How little are they governed by the weight of testimony in religion! Unless there be a right state of heart, how small is the deference which men practically pay to the Evidences of Christianity! It is for this reason that I insist so continually on the importance of a religious and candid temper. Men believe according to the state of their affections. How little do multitudes act as if a Saviour had been really born, as if he had truly died for our redemption, as if he had really sent down his Holy Spirit upon his church, and was about to return to judge the world! How little do men act upon the life and immortality which are brought to light by the gospel! They hesitate-they are negligent—they just admit the authenticity and credibility of the gospel- they are just not unbelievers—but they want feeling, interest, a sense of the importance of religion.
II. Let such, then, awake to the IMMENSE VALUE OF CHRISTIANITY, the facts of which re