« AnteriorContinuar »
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 bim 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 con
trary 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 authors of them. But every thing, which we find in the New Testament is precisely what we might expect to find, from persons so circumstanced as the Apostles and Evangelists. Whether we consider the New Testament in reference to matters of geography, or in reference to states and governments, or in reference to prevailing customs, we every where find representations, which accord with the geography, the policy, and the customs of the first century. The facts, which are recorded, and the sentiments, which are delivered, harmonize with the country, the age, and the character of the several writers. The language also is exactly the kind of language which such persons would have used. In short every thing throughout the New Testament, is in unison with the belief, that the several books of it were written by the authors, to whom they are ascribed. Now it has been shewn already, that the external evidence in the present case is so strong, as to require nothing more from internal evidence, than a bare agreement with it. And since the internal evidence sufficiently shews, that the several books of the New Testament, might have been written by the authors, to whom they are ascribed, the external evidence incontestably proves that they were so.
Here then we might rest contented with the proof, which has been already given. But since internal evidence may go further, than that of a mere auxiliary to the external, and every thing, which relates to the authenticity of the New Testament deserves our serious attention, let us consider how far internal evidence may be carried on the present occasion. Let us inquire, whether a proof may be obtained from the New Testament itself, independently of external evidence, not only that it might have been written by the persons to whom the several books are ascribed, but that those books could not have been written by any other persons, than persons so circumstanced as the Apostles and Evangelists.
Let us begin with the historical books of the New Testament, and consider, in the first place, the knowledge which they display of the several relations, which the Jews, in the time of our Saviour, bore, as well to each other, as to foreign nations. The various changes, both in their civil and in their religious state, from the reign of Herod the Great to the Procuratorship of Festus, with the jarring opinions of the different Jewish sects, are so introduced in the historical books of the New Testament, as could be expected only from writers, to whom the civil and religious
state of the Jewish nation was familiar. The divisions and subdivisions made by the Romans in the governments of Judæa, Samaria, and Galilee, the subjection of Judæa to a Roman Procurator on the banishment of Archelaus, its temporary administration by Herod Agrippa, and its subsequent return to the Procuratorship, are facts not formally recorded in the historical books, but occasionally introduced, and so introduced, as would be done by no writer, who had lived in a different country, or in a different age. From the intimate knowledge thus displayed by the persons who wrote the historical books of the New Testament, we must conclude, that they were conversant with Palestine, and contemporary with the facts, which they record. The knowledge, which they display, relates frequently to matters so minute, to matters of such little apparent interest, beyond the narrow limits of Judæa, that a writer of any other country, or of any other age could hardly have possessed it. And the difficulty of obtaining it in any subsequent age was further increased by the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subversion of the Jewish state ; a subversion so complete, as to have obliterated among the Jews themselves all remembrance of minute relations and transactions, which preceded that event. The history of our Saviour