Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

* Here is a people wonderfully separated from the rest of the world! they worship no Idols, but acknowledge one supreme Deity, spiritual in his nature: how could thishappen? they are no way improved beyond their neighbours, in philosophy, or arts. The account they give of this matter themselves, is quite out of the course of common experience; but yet I see no other, which can solve the difficulty; and, if I allow theirs, I must confess all is at least consistent. Here is a system of government, which no lawgiver can have invented; and it has been carried on for a long succession of ages. The Founder of it, as far as any man is entitled to be called a founder, seems to have something in common with the Ægyptians ; but yet he contradicts the notions of Ægypt in several important particulars.--According to the history of this singular people, a series of miracles has been performed in their favour and support, which would exceed all credibility in common cases, but here it seems to make an indispensible part of the whole plan ;--the religion would be more strange without the miracles, than the miracles would be without the religion. And these miracles are believed, not, like prodigies amongst us, only by the vulgar, but by all the most eminent, by the rulers themselves. Nay, at this time, the Teachers seem not only to be sublime and pathetic beyond any thing I can conceive, but seem also to be continually supported by divine power; and to consist of a regular succession ; many of them seem to have had a supernatural power of foretelling future events.

"What am I to think of this people ? if what they say is not true, the wonder is greater than the

aggregate * Div. Leg. Book iv. Sect. 6. Prop. 3.

my best

aggregate of all the miracles, of which they boast. I therefore give myself up to worship their God; whose unity and spirituality accord with all notions.'

* Now this people have a number of Books, which they account sacred :—these they have preserved carefully, and read publicly; and a number of copies of them have been in different familes" : am I to make any question of the authenticity of these Books? if I do, I must give up all my reasoning, and revoke the belief of every thing, which I have now concluded to be credible.'

Can we doubt, that a person, who reasoned thus, before the coming of Christ, had sufficient ground of assent to the authenticity of our Books of the Old Testament? and there is nothing in the reasoning, which any person may not make use of at this time,

Indeed it should be observed, that, if our examiner was supposed to live after the building of the second Temple“, there are some of the above expressions, which he could not use with strict propriety o ; namely, those which imply a set of Prophets actually existing; but then he has a longer series of proofs. And he might have the advantage of this material question, why, if the Prophets were impostors, should no man prophesy of the Messiah after Malachi ? who lived 450 years' before Christ.

We,

b See Deut. xxxi. 10.

c See Deut. vi. 7. The account of the single copy in the time of Josiah (2 Kings xxii. 8.) is understood in different senses ; (see Collier, I. p. 263): supposing it literally true, copies would multiply afterwards.

* Built 415 years before Christ. Blair.
e Collier's sacred Interpr. vol. I. p. 281.

Josephus contra Apion. lib. i. p. 1333. Edit. Hud.

We, at this time, though we may not see this evidence in so striking a light, nor be so much affected by it, have a strict right to make use of it in all its parts.

9. We are next to see what reasons a Christian, as such, has for receiving the Books of the Old Testament as sacred and authentic.-And it must be enough to say, that our Saviour and his Apostles constantly acknowledge them as sacred. The Jews are commanded to “search the Scriptures“;” Timothy is told particularly their beneficial effects 6. Prophecies are frequently applied to Jesus, and, with regard to the greater and more extraordinary events, the Jews are called upon to acknowledge, that “ thus it was written;" that it behoved Christ (the expected Messiah, whenever he came) to suffer; and so on. And St. Paul expressly calls the Jewish Scriptures, “ the Oracles of God.”—A point so clear need not be laboured.

But it may be said, this is only to acknowledge the volume collectively; not to tell us, that the particular Books, which we receive, were those meant. The answer to this is, that we receive the same Books, which the Jews received, and their Scriptnres are authorized by our Saviour without any exception.—When he blames the Jews for superseding their Scriptures by their traditions, he gives no intimation of their having added to their Scriptures, or diminished, or in any way corrupted them. And St. Paul's calling them the “ Oracles of God," in the manner he does, seems also to imply, that he found no fault with the usual number; nor had any difficulties on that head.

One

a John v. 39.

b 2 Tim. iii. 15. ( Luke xxiv, 26, 46.

d Rom. iii. 2.-ix. 4, 5. eJerom's Canon of the Old Test. was that of the Jews." Lard. vol. V. p. 21, and there have always been Jews.

One passage of the New Testament contains a division of the sacred Books of the Old Testament into the Law of Moses," " the Prophets,and “ the Psalmse.” But it may be said, are not the Historical Books here omitted ? First, we might say, that if there were any books merely historical, the rest might be considered as the Scriptures, in the strict sense, and the historical Books as an illustration. What the Jews did, is not always what they were commanded to do.; and History relates what they did. The Scriptures were the same, whatever use was made of them. But I know not that this remark is of much use ; the books called historical are not merely such ; and the authors of them were Prophets in the scripture sense ; that is, inspired persons, and teachers : consequently, the historical Books must either come under Law, Prophets, or Psalms. We can immediately see how these three kinds of sacred books must be the most eminent and important :-Law commanded; Prophecy was requisite to shew the plan of God's dealings; and such parts of the Psalms as were not prophetic, would act as incitements to piety and virtue.

Different solutions have been here' offered ; but the true answer to this question concerning our Saviour's omission of the historical Books of Scripture must seemingly come from Josephus, though he does not fully explain himself. In his first Book against Apion, he says, that the Jews have only 22 Books; which he divides into three Classes; the first contains the Law, the second the Prophets, and the third the Psalms. In the first class, he reckons five books ; in the second, thirteen; in the third, four. How our 39 books are more particularly reduced to this number, does not seem to

be

e Luke xxiv. 41.

{ See Lardner, vol. V. p. 24.

be settled by any authority; but we have evidence enough, from the modern Jews compared with Josephus, that all our Books are comprehended in the three classes. The Jews used to be desirous to reduce their sacred Books to 22, because that was the number of letters in their Alphabet; but now, we are told, they make twenty-four Books. This is easily accomplished, as the Chronicles may be either as two Books or one ; the minor Prophets are reckoned as making one Book; and so of Ezra and Nehemiah ; &c.

It may be objected to our present argument for the authenticity of the Books of the Old Testament, namely, there being acknowledged by Christ and his Apostles, that our Saviour might mean only to argue with the Jews on what they acknowledged, in order to convince them they were wrong in some respects. And it does indeed seem as if he hadd sometimes this end in view : but it cannot thence be concluded, that he always had. That would be to admit the fallacy before marked out', that because a remark is true in some cases, it is true in all.-Besides, how could it answer any purpose to apply prophecies to Christ, if they were not to be understood' as really divine? and, in

other

• See ways of reducing them in Hudson's Josephus, Fol. vol. II. p. 1333. Also in Lard. Works, vol. V. p. 25.

• Jerom's Prol. Galeatus; beginning.
c Broughton's Dictionary; under Bible.

d Matt. xii. 27. John x. 35. See Div. Leg. vol. IV. 8vo. p. 366. Sherlock’s Discourses, vol. II. p. 3, top.–Also Book i. Chap. xvii, Sect. 19. of this; and ii. ii. 13.

• Art. ii. Sect. 35. and Art. v. Sect. 15.

f Book i. Chap. xvii. something was said of Collins's scheme, now and then; that is, as the Prophecies are applicable to some event before Christ, it is not right to apply them to him also : --they ought therefore to he applied to Christ only in an argumentum ad hominem. But here we do not want to see how

Christ

« AnteriorContinuar »