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The Authenticity of the New Testament having been established in the Lectures, which I gave on a former occasion, I now enter on a subject of equal importance, the Credibility of the New Testament. The two subjects, though closely connected, are in themselves distinct. The question of authorship is one thing: the question of truth is another. As a history may be true, though the author is unknown, so the authorship may be certain, and yet the history be doubtful. From the fact, that a book, ascribed to an ancient author, is justly ascribed to him, we cannot argue to the truth of its contents without intermediate links in the chain of our reasoning: And, though the process, by which we go from the first to the şecond, is in some cases easier, than in others, it is in all cases necessary to establish the latter by a separate and independent proof.
The meaning of the term 'authentic', as used in these Lectures, has been already explained
on a former occasion, and may be easily inferred from the observations, which have just been made. But to remove all danger of mistake, in regard to a word which is variously used, I will again explain the different applications of it, and again assign the reason for preferring that sense, which is here ascribed to it. While some writers use the term 'authentic' as synonymous with 'genuine', there are other writers, who distinguish the terms, by using the epithet 'genuine' for books written by the authors to whom they are ascribed, and applying the term “authentic' in those cases only, where such books are likewise entitled to credit. When the term 'authentic' is used in this latter sense, it would be tautology to speak of authenticity and credibility : for authenticity then includes credibility. We must then speak of books, as being genuine and credible; which comes to the same thing, as if we called them authentic and credible, when the terms in question are used as synonymous. Now every author, when a word is used in different senses, may adopt that, which he himself prefers, provided he gives a previous definition, and throughout the course of his reasoning adheres to that definition. But experience has shewn, that when the term authentic is professedly used in the compound sense of 'genuine and credible', men sometimes
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
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