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There is one more writer, whom it has been usual to quote as evidence, for our four Greek Gospels, namely Justin Martyr. I have already quoted him as evidence for the book of Revelation, because his testimony on that book is clear and decisive. But I cannot consistently quote him as evidence for our four Greek Gospels, because the quotations, which he is supposed to have made from them, are involved in difficulties, which I have fully stated elsewhere, and which it is unnecessary to repeat. Nor is the loss of one witness to the authenticity of the Gospels a matter of any importance, when their authenticity has been already established beyond the possibility of doubt. Indeed the loss is more than compensated by the advantage, which is obtained in regard to the integrity of the Gospels; which integrity would materially suffer, if it were true, that Justin Martyr, instead of quoting from a Hebrew Gospel, like others, who were born in Palestine at the same period with himself, had derived his quotations from our Greek Gospels.
To the testimonies of Christian writers it has been usual also to add the testimonies of Jewish and heathen writers. But their testimony, as well as the testimony of ancient heretics, shall be reserved for the proof of credibility.
The external evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament requires no further illustration. In the next Lecture, therefore, which will be the last of the present series, I shall proceed to the internal evidence, which affords much matter of interesting and curious inquiry.
When external evidence has been produced for the authenticity of a work, the first question to be asked in regard to the internal evidence, is whether it agrees with the external. The internal evidence for the authenticity of any book, is deduced from the book itself. If the book contains nothing inconsistent with the notion, that it was written by the author to whom it is ascribed, or, in other words, if the contents of the book are such, that it might have been written by him, then the proof from external evidence, that it was written by him, not only remains unimpaired, but receives additional support from its agreement with the internal. If indeed the evidence, deduced from the contents of a work, goes no further, than to shew that it might have been written by the author assigned to it, it is internal evidence of the lowest kind; it can only be applied in aid of the external evidence, and cannot establish the authenticity of a work by itself. But even such internal evidence is of great importance. For, if instead of finding from the contents of a work that it might have proceeded from the author assigned to it, we discovered any thing inconsistent with his known situation and character, the credit, which had been given to the external evidence, may not only be weakened, but be destroyed. And we may be compelled to admit, that however specious the external evidence may appear, there must be somewhere a defect, either in the statement of facts, or in the reasoning which is founded on them. If a book contains within itself undeniable marks of a different age, or a different country, from that to which it is said to belong, or if it evidently betrays an author of a different description from him who is said to have written it, we must conclude, that they, who have said so, have been led into error. Since then internal evidence, if it is at variance with the external, may be strong enough to counteract it, an agreement between them is of great importance, even if the internal evidence goes no further than to shew, that the book in question might have been written by the author, to whom external evidence ascribes it. It is true, that where external evidence is so strong, as it is in favour of the New Testament, a discovery of any thing in the books themselves, which might oppose that evidence, would be contrary to all expectation. And we should have so much the more reason to be surprised at such a discovery, as it would be a discovery, which had eluded the vigilance of Origen and Jerom.
In fact, the more closely we examine the several books, which compose the New Testament, the more we must be convinced, that both their matter and their language accord with the known situations and characters of the respective authors. Spurious compositions betray themselves, by allusions to persons and things, which did not exist at the period assigned for the composition; by a display of knowledge, which the pretended author could not have possessed ; by the delivery of opinions, which he could not have entertained; by peculiarities of language, which accord not with his
country or his character; by the introduction of customs and manners, which were foreign to the age in which he lived; or by some other discordance, into which every impostor is likely to fall, from the difficulty of uniformly recollecting the difference between his own situation, and the situation of the person, to whom he ascribes his work. If therefore the books of the New Testament had not been the works of the Apostles and Evangelists, some incongruity would have been discovered between those books and the pretended