« AnteriorContinuar »
forget this definition in the progress of their argument. When a book has been proved to be genuine, and therefore authentic in the sense of those who use the terms as synonymous, the argument may be pursued by others, who use the term 'authentic' in its compound sense. Hence the error may arise, that a book, which had been proved to be only genuine, is considered as a book, which had been proved to be both genuine and credible.
But no such confusion can arise if the term authentic is used in its plain and simple sense, as denoting nothing more, than that the book, to which we apply this epithet, was written by the person to whom it is ascribed. For this reason it is so used in these Lectures. In so using it, we are exempt from the danger of including more in the term, than the argument will allow. In every stage of our reasoning we shall be aware, that when the proof of Authenticity is ended, Credibility still remains to be proved.
In arguing on the books of the New Testament, the transition from Authenticity to Credibility, appears at first sight to be much easier, than when we argue about other books. In regard to common books, however satisfactory the proof of authorship may be, there still may be room to doubt, whether the author is entitled to credit. But such doubts are excluded, when we know that the author was divinely inspired. Since then the Apostles and Evangelists wrote under the influence of divine inspiration, it seems to follow as a thing of course, that the writings ascribed to them are worthy of credit, as soon as we have shewn, that those writings are justly ascribed to them. Indeed the argument might be rendered still easier : we might with equal reason omit the proof of authenticity altogether. We might begin with the proposition, that the New Testament was divinely inspired : and then we should come at once to the conclusion of its credibility, without even moving the question, by whom the several books of it were written.
But this mode of reasoning, though it recommends itself by its great convenience, and has therefore not unfrequently been adopted, is attended with the same defect, as an attempt to prove a proposition in geometry by means of another proposition, which is itself dependent on the proposition to which we apply it. That all Scripture was written by inspiration is perfectly true. But we must prove the fact, before we can appeal to it. And that proof can be obtained by no other means, than by arguments drawn from the New Testament itself; arguments therefore which imply, that the New Testament is true. If therefore while we are conducting the proof, that the New Testament is true, we argue from a proposition, which is dependent on that truth, we prove premises by inferences as well as inferences by premises. That is, we prove nothing whatever.
The Credibility. therefore of the New Testament must be established independently of its inspiration, or it cannot be established at all. But 'established it may be, and established on principles, superior to every objection.
The arguments for the Credibility of the New Testament may be referred to two general heads. We may argue from the character and situation of the writers to the credibility of their writings: or we may argue from the contents of the writings themselves. Now independently of divine inspiration, the character and situation of the persons, who wrote the several books of the New Testament afford a strong presumption that their record is true. And this presumption will be raised to positive proof, when we have considered the argu
ments in detail. Equally convincing shall we find the
arguments, which are drawn from the writings themselves; whether we compare the several parts of each single book, or compare one book with another, or compare the whole with other works of acknowledged credit. For the sake of perspicuity we must arrange the various arguments under their respective heads. And those, which are deduced from the character and situation of the writers, are entitled to our first consideration.
But before we can apply those arguments to the New Testament, it will be necessary to institute an inquiry, on the result of which the propriety of such application must entirely depend. When, for instance, we argue from the character and situation of St. John to the Credibility of his writings, we argue on the presumption, that the Gospel and the Epistles which we now possess as the works of St. John, are the same works with those, which were written by the Apostle. But ancient writings, which have descended to us in manuscript, must have been exposed to the danger of alterations, as well designed as accidental, to interpolations as well as to omissions, And such alterations may have been, unless we can prove the contrary, committed to an extent, that the original work, under the hands of tran
scribers, has gradually assumed a totally new form. Now it is evident, that when we argue from the character of a writer to the credibility of his writings, the argument can apply only to what was written by himself. And if the interpolations or alterations have been numerous, they may prevent the application of the argument altogether. That we may be enabled therefore to apply the argument to the books of the New Testament, we must previously shew, that the books, which we now possess, as works of Apostles and Evangelists, are the same books, as those which were composed by Apostles and Evangelists. In other words, to the proof of the Authenticity of the New Testament we must add the proof of its Integrity.
But in the conduct of this proof we must not be expected to give more, than the nature of the subject admits. When the term “Integrity' is applied to the New Testament, we must not understand it in so strict a sense, as if this Integrity could not be established, without a proof, that we have at present copies of the Greek Testament, which are in every word the same with the autographs of the sacred writers. We must not confound the notion of integrity with the notion of a perfect text. We may establish the