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nary for a book to be transmitted pure and entire from generation to generation : but a traditionary doctrine, especially if it be of any considerable length, cannot really be preserved without a miracle, without the occasional interposition of Almighty God to renew the memory of it at particular intervals, or his continual assistance and inspiration to keep it always alive and vigorous. It is likewise a method of conveyance more complete and uniform, presenting itself to all at once, and to all alike, to be compared together; whereas a traditionary doctrine must be communicated by little and little, and without doubt communicated differently at different times by different persons. It is, moreover, a method of conveyance more general and diffusive. A man's writings reach further than his words; and surely we need not observe, that it is the practice of mankind, whenever they would publish any thing, to have it written or printed in a book."1
Further, experience shows that writing is a method of conveyance more lasting than tradition. It is an old and trite observation, that a word heard perishes, but a letter written remains.” Jesus Christ is said to have performed many other miracles, and to have done many other memorable things, besides those which have been committed to writing ; but, observe, how much more faithful record is than mere report ; the few, comparatively speaking, which were written, are preserved and credited, while the many, which were not recorded in writing, have long since been utterly lost and forgotten. “Every thing, of any consequence, we desire to have in writing. By this
, laws are promulgated; by this, arts and sciences are propagated; by this, titles and estates are secured. And what do we know of antient history, but the little that cometh down to us in books and writings ? Tradition passeth away like the morning cloud ; but books may live as long as the sun and moon endureth.”
To the preceding arguments for the usefulness and expediency of written revelation, arising from the uncertainty of oral tradition and the greater security and advantages of writing, we may add, that it is certainly more fair and open, more free from suspicion of any fraud or contrivance, to have a religion preserved in writing, there to be read and examined by all, than to have it left only with a few, to be by them communicated in discourse to others; as no two persons express the same thing exactly in the same manner, nor even the same person at different times. The heathen philosophers had their exoteric and esoteric doctrines, as they distinguished them; that is, some which they generally delivered, and others which they communicated only to a few select auditors: but the first propagators of Christianity, knowing no such distinctions, delivered the whole doc
Bp. Newton's Works, vol. iv. dissert. 2. pp. 19_23. 8vo. edit. The same line of argument, and nearly in similar terms, is stated and illustrated by Archbishop Tillotson, Works, vol. vi. pp. 233. et seq. London, 1820. 8vo.
3 Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet.
trine which they professed to have received from God. The heathen priests had their mysteries, which were to be concealed from the profane vulgar, but Christianity can never be made too public.
Most other religions also are committed to writing for the use of their particular professors; and it would be a prejudice to the Christian religion if it did not enjoy the same advantage. “The Jews had what they called an oral law, as well as a written one; and the one as well as the other they asserted to have been given by God on Mount Sinai - the oral to serve as a comment or explanation of the written law. But, in process of time, these traditions multiplied so fast, that the Jews found it necessary to keep their traditions no longer as traditions, but committed them to writing; and they are now preserved in the books called the Talmuds. So fallible is tradition, so much more secure is writing, even in the opinion of the greatest traditionists; and if the doctrines of religion must, one time or other, be written, it is better surely to have them written by inspired authors at first, than by others afterwards."
Further, the importance of the matter, the variety of the subjects, and the design of the institutions, contained in those books, which Jews and Christians account to be sacred, are additional reasons why they should be committed to writing. “The matter is of no less importance than the whole will of God and the salvation of mankind, our duty here and our happiness hereafter; and if any thing deserves to be written, do not these things [deserve to be recorded) in the most lasting characters ? The subjects likewise are very various, histories of times past and prophecies of things to come, orations and epistles, sublime points of faith, and plain rules of praetice, hymns and prayers and thanksgivings, all too excellent to be forgotten, but too many all to be remembered. The Law was for a single nation ; but the Gospel is for the whole world. For a single nation it was requisite that their laws should be written, or to what can they appeal, and by what can they regulate their practice? And if it was necessary for the law to be written, it was certainly much more necessary for the Gospel, which was designed to be both of perpetual and universal obligation, a religion for all ages and for all nations."
The necessity of a divine revelation having been proved, and the probability that such a revelation would be given to mankind having been shewn, it remains that we examine the pretensions of the Old and New Testaments to be that revelation. Among the numerous attacks which have been made on the truth of Christianity, one of the most formidable is that which is directed against the authenticity of the Scriptures. It has been asserted, that we derive a set of rules and opinions from a series of books, which were not written by the authors to whom we ascribe them; and that the volume to which we give the title of divine, and which is the basis of our faith and manners, is a forgery of later ages. It is therefore of importance to ascertain, first, the genuineness, authenticity, and incorrupt
ness of the several books contained in the Bible, considered simply as compositions ; the credibility of their respective authors will next be investigated; and their claims to be received as divinely inspired, will then be examined. In discussing these momentous topics, it would perhaps be the shorter way, to prove first the genuineness, authenticity, incorruptness, and inspiration of the New Testament : for
, if its claims to be received as a divinely inspired book be admitted, no reasonable doubt can be entertained of the divine inspiration, &c. of the Old Testament; because the writers of the New Testament incessantly appeal to it, and make ample quotations from it. As, however, the modern impugners of revelation have directed their arguments chiefly against the Old Testament, in order that
, by impeaching its credibility, they may with greater probability of success undermine and invalidate the dispensation revealed in the New Testament, we shall commence with the Old Testament; because if that be true, (the dispensation it contains being introductory to that contained in the New Testament,) the latter, being founded on and perfective of the former, must of necessity be true also. By adopting this arrangement, it is possible that some few arguments may be repeated ; but the importance of the subjects discussed will (it is hoped) be deemed a satisfactory apology for such unavoidable repetitions.
? This is the method pursued by Bishop Marsh, in his Course of Lectures on the
ON THE GENUINENESS AND AUTHENTICITY OF THE OLD
AND NEW TESTAMENTS.
ON THE GENUINENESS AND AUTHENTICITY OF THE OLD
I. Great importance of the question, whether the books contained in
the Old Testament are genuine or spurious. --- Genuineness and authenticity defined. — II. External proofs of the genuineness of the Old Testament. - Historical Testimony, and the character of the Jews. -- III. Internal evidence. — 1. Language, style, and manner of writing. -- 2. Circumstantiality of the narrative contained in the Old Testament. — IV. Proofs of the genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch in particular.--- 1. From the language in which it is written. — 2. From the nature of the Mosaic law. - 3. From the united historical testimony of Jews and Gentiles. 4. From the contents of the Pentateuch. - V. Objections to the au
thenticity of the Pentateuch considered and refuted. 1. If the books, contained in the Old Testament, were not written by those authors to whom they are ascribed, or about that time to which they are assigned, but were written by authors who lived at a much later period, -- that is, if they were supposititious or spurious, the history which is related in them would by no means be worthy of the great credit that is given to it; the design, which pervades these books, would have been an imposition upon a later age, and the accomplishment of that design in the New Testament would be altogether an extraordinary and singular occurrence; the miracles, therein recorded to have been antiently performed, would have been the invention of a later age, or natural events would have been metamorphosed into miracles; the prophecies, asserted to be contained in those books, would have been invented after the historical facts which are narrated in them; and, lastly, Jesus Christ and his apostles would have approved and recommended the works of impostors. Hence it is evident of what great importance the question is, whether these books are genuine, that is, whether they were written by the persons whose names they bear, and, (especially if the author be un
known) about that time which is assigned to them, or at which they profess to have been written ; and also, whether they are authentic, that is, whether they relate matters of fact as they really happened, and in consequence possess authority. For, a book may be genuine that is not authentic ; a book may be authentic that is not genuine; and many are both genuine and authentic, which are not inspired. The first epistle of Clement Bishop of Rome is genuine, having been written by the author whose name it bears; but it possesses no authority on which we can found any doctrines. “The history of Sir Charles Grandison is genuine, being indeed written by Richardson, the author, whose name it bears; but it is not authentic, being a mere effort of that ingenious writer's invention in the production of fictions. Again, the Account of Lord Anson's Voyages is an authentic book, the information being supplied by Lord Anson himself to the author ; but it is not genuine, for the real author was Benjamin Robins, the mathematician, and not Walters, whose name is appended to it. Hayley's Memoirs of the Life of Cowper are both genuine and authentic : they were written by Mr. Hayley, and the information they contain was deduced from the best authority.” But the poems, which bear the name of Rowley, are neither genuine nor authentic, not having been written by him, nor by any one who lived in the fifteenth century, but being wholly the productions of the unhappy youth Chatterton, who lived three hundred years
afterwards. In what age and by what author any book is written is a question of fact, that can only be answered by historical testimonies. These historical testimonies are, 1. Unexceptionable witnesses, who possessed both the means of knowing, and who were also willing to conimunicate the truth; and, 2. Certain marks which may be discerned in the subject-matter, diction, genius, and style of the books, and which show that they were written by the authors to whom they are ascribed, or about the age to which they are referred. The former are termed external arguments, and the latter, internal; and as these two species of testimony are universally admitted to be suflicient for proving the genuineness of the writings of Thucydides, Plutarch, or Livy, or of any other antient profane authors, no further testimony ought to be required for the solution of our question.
II. External proofs of the genuineness of the Old Testament.
1. As those who were coeval with any Hebrew writer, and transcribed
any book which they received from his hands, and also delivered the same to others to be transcribed, knew by whom and at what time such book was written ; and as these, having a certain knowledge of the author and of the age in which he lived, delivered such book to their immediate descendants, and these again to their posterity, and so from one generation to another through all succeeding ages, -all these persons jointly testify that such book is the genuine production of the author whose name it bears, and of the age in which he lived.
Dr. O. Gregory's Letters on the Evidences, &c. of the Christian Religion, vol. i. p. 84. 2d edit.