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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
former, though we may fail in establishing the latter.
No one, who is acquainted with the criticism of the Greek Testament, will contend, that among the Greek manuscripts, which we now possess, there is any one which contains either the Gospels or the Epistles precisely in the same words, from the beginning to the end, which were used by the writers themselves. In the multiplicity of readings only one can be the genuine reading; and this genuine reading may be contained, sometimes in one copy, sometimes in another. We must collect therefore from all, and by the rules of criticism determine, which among the various readings has the strongest claim. But in this critical employment there will always be room for diversity of opinion : and from the imperfection of human judgement, we shall never attain an unerring result. Our endeavours therefore to form a copy of the Greek Testament, in which there shall be no deviation from the autographs of the sacred writers, in other words, our endeavours to form a perfect text of the Greek Testament can never be entirely successful. We may approximate, and we have approximated as nearly to a perfect text, as under all circumstances can be justly expected. But something will ever be wanting to render the coincidence complete between the autographs and the best of copies, which we can form at present.
Widely different is the conclusion to which we shall come, when we argue for the general Integrity of the New Testament; namely, when the term is used in that sense, in which alone, it is necessary to use it, for the purpose of establishing the Credibility of the New Testament. If the facts originally recorded, and the doctrines originally delivered in the New Testament, are the same in the existing copies, we have all the integrity which is wanted to make the New Testament the basis of our faith and morals. Though the criticism therefore of the Greek Testament is on various accounts a matter of high importance, and has accordingly been treated as a primary branch of theology, we must not suffer the imperfections, to which all human exertions are exposed, to influence our reasoning upon subjects, to which those imperfections do not apply. That Integrity, which is necessary to establish Credibility, does not depend on a variation of words, if there is no variation in the sense. It will be sufficient therefore, if we can prove, that the New Testament has descended to us, upon the whole, in the same state, in which it was originally
written; and that we may justly confide in everything which relates to facts and to doctrines. The remaining part of this Lecture therefore shall be employed in the proof of such Integrity.
In the first place we may observe, that a general corruption of the sacred text was in itself impracticable. If one party was inclined, either to omit what opposed their peculiar tenets, or to insert what might afford them additional support, there was always some other party, both ready and willing to detect the fraud.
And even if they persevered in altering their own manuscripts, they had not the power of altering the manuscripts in the hands of their opponents. Though the corruption therefore might be partial, it could not become general. Nor must we forget that the books, which compose the Greek Testament, have been transcribed, beyond all comparison, more frequently than the works of any other Greek author. And it is evident that the difficulty of corrupting the Greek manuscripts must have increased with every increase in their number. Though it cannot be denied, therefore, that there is stronger temptation to alter a work, which relates to doctrines, than to alter a work, which relates to matters indifferent, the impedi