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there is no end of reasoning upon the subject. Similar objections have been made to the first chapters of St. Luke; and various passages in other parts of the New Testament have been marked out in like manner, where the authority of manuscripts, versions, and quotations, is quite decisive. There is something in this mode of accommodating Christianity to the wishes of individuals, that is to me peculiarly disgusting. It is unworthy the cause of truth, and gives no great idea of the talents of him who makes use of it. Questions of this kind should ever be met fairly, as they really are. The canon of the New Testament, its integrity, its genuineness, and its credibility, should be investigated with as much acuteness, and with as little reserve, as in any other case, and the truth be held, at whatever cost. I am under no fear that our religion will ever lose by the full investigation of the really learned; but the proof of the truth of Christianity would cease to be a proof to me, if, in order to attain it, I was under the necessity of rejecting that from the canon, which had ever been admitted into it; of violating all the laws of criticism, to retain or to get rid of a particular text, or every fair rule of interpretation, in order to make the Scriptures speak a language in agreement with opinions derived from other sources
Edward. Since we shall now have to refer to the New Testament itself, will it not become a matter of importance what text we make use of, and what interpretation of that text we adopt, in case of various readings, or a difference of opinion in the commentators?
Mr. B. For the text, there is not that great difference which is likely to affect our statements, nor yet as to the interpretation of that text; in matters of historical fact, with which we have principally to do, there being a pretty general agreement.
Maria. If you refer to the Greek text, and to inter
55 To what other portions of the New Testament have similar objections been made?—56 What is said of this mode of objecting to scripture? -57 How should the canon of the New Testament be investigated ?-58 Under what circumstances would the proof of the truth of Christianity cease to be proof?--59 What is the last question of Edward in this conVeesadion 1.60 How does Mr. B. reply to it?
pretations of it, and to arguments drawn from thence, it
' will be impossible for me to understand you, my dear father.
Mr. B. There must be reference occasionally to it but you will not have any great difficulty, I trust, in comprehending the nature of the arguments thence adduced, even if you do not see their whole force.
Maria. What is the precise meaning of the word genuine, as applied to the subject before us?
Mr. B. A book is genuine, when written by the author whose name it bears; a book may, in some cases, be canonical, where there is some degree of uncertainty as to the author; and a book may be genuine, where it cannot be admitted as canonical. It has been a question for instance, by whom the Epistle of St. James was writ: ten, some assigning it to the son of Zebedee and brother of St. John, and others to the bishop of Jerusalem, who is said to have been near relation of our Lord. In either case the book would be canonical, as the production of an apostle, and a difference of opinion may safely be allowed in a matter where certainty cannot be obtained. Again, we have an Epistle to the Corinthians, by the Clement mentioned in St. Paul's Epistles, the genuineness of which appears fully established, but which, though very valuable as an ancient record, never was held canonical, not being the production of one of those immediately designated by the Founder of the religion as its authorised teachers and governors.
61 With what remarks of Maria and Mr. B. is the conversation finished?
1 With what question does Maria commence the ninth conversation?2 What is said of the terms canonical and genuine?-3 How is this illustrated by reference to the epistle of James? How is it illustrated by reference to that of Clement?
Edward. But with regard to the books of the New Testament, it is asserted that they are canonical, because. they are genuine. The proof, however, of the former, does not to us necessarily demonstrate the latter.
Mr. B. It does not; for the first Christians might possibly have been mistaken in believing them genuine, and therefore have erred in constituting them canonical: but since they were unquestionably the best judges in every thing relative to these books, their decision ought to be sufficient proof to us, in case no positive proof can be established against the genuineness of these writings; and this we can only obtain from the internal evidence derived from an examination of the books themselves, there being nó external evidence against it.
Maria. Do none of the ancient adversaries controvert the genuineness of these writings?
Mr. B. Not one; and their conduct, in this respect, proves that they could not overthrow it.
Maria. How so?
Mr. B. Because it would have afforded the readiest way of overthrowing the whole: it is evident that they were grievously embarrassed by the statements of the New Testament; and had any grounds for it existed, a sufficient length of time elapsed to have presented this method of attack to them: but Julian admits the faet of their genuineness as undeniable, and argues from thence; he speaks of the greater number of the writers of the New Testament by name; and indeed his attack upon Christianity is to us invaluable, as from the learning, the talents, and the rancorous hatred to Christianity of this opponent, we are certain that he would never have regarded these records as genuine, had there been the least ground for opposition. Porphyry, in like manner, at an earlier period, mentions, in the few fragments which yet remain, the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. John, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistle to the
5 What does Edward say of the books of the New Testament, touching this matter?–6 What is the reply to him of Mr. B?–7 Is the genuineness of these writings converted by none of the ancient adversaries?_8 What does Julian admit?—9 What is said of Porphyry, in relation to the same subject?
Galatians; and from his conduct we may draw a similar inference.
Maria. This is certainly very much in their favour; but did Celsus do the same?
Mr. B. Celsus does not quote by name; and therefore only establishes the existence of the words of the New Testament at the period in which he wrote. Now consider, in addition to this, the vast force of the argument derived from these books having been constituted canonical, because believed to be genuine, towards establishing the fact of their genuineness. Admitting that possibly the adversaries of Christianity had not the means of proving them spurious, had any means of so doing existed, the Christians could not have been destitute of those
Maria. But they had no wish to prove them spurious, and therefore, if the means were in their hands, they would not use it, perhaps not perceive it.
Mr. B. But why should they wish to prove these records genuine, had they never existed? I know not how the Christian assertions, as to their religion and its Founder, could have been disproved; Christianity did not so necessarily depend upon these documents, that it must have fallen with them. They were, most probably, disposed to wish Christianity true; and if, indeed, they continued in the church, they must have been aware, that if were not true, they were of all men the most miserable. They also had in their hands these records, but it does not follow that they should feel an equal zeal to prove these true; for the great stimulus in those times was the hope of a joyful resurrection, and the great foundation of it was the fact of the resurrection of the Founder of their religion. Now this hope, though it would have been weakened, and this fact rendered more uncertain, by the want of genuineness in these writings, yet would not have been so entirely done away, as to be put
10 And what is said of Celsus, in relation to it?–11 What, in addition to this, is to be considered?–12 Would Christians have been likely to prove the scriptures spurious, had they been able to do it?-13 Why not?
-14 What is said of the influence exerted on their Christian liope, provided they doubted the genuineness of these writings?
into competition with what to numbers must have been the greatest trial, viz. the pure and holy life inculcated in these writings; which is so contrary to what we know to have been the general practice of the world, that it seems wholly incredible that men should have tied themselves down to its observance, without the fullest conviction that the authority which commanded it was paramount.
Maria. And that authority evidently depended on the genuineness of these writings, which therefore they would not have acknowledged but upon conviction.
Mr. B. You must ever bear this in mind, that the New Testament was not to them a mere record of facts and opinions, which some might believe, and others not; it was, indeed, a record of facts, but of facts to which they were to be ready to bear witness with their blood; a record of precepts, on the observance of which depended all their hopes of salvation. So long as the New Testament existed, and the persecutions of the church continued, (and who could hope that if the former was promulgated the latter would cease?) the Christian was tied down to a line of conduct, such as the world had known no instance of before; "to resist not evil;" “ to do good unto them that hate you, and pray for those that despitefully use you and persecute you;" “ to return good for evil;' “ to be ready to lay down their lives for the brethren," —were precepts, when connected with religious authority, such as the world had never seen before. Some philosopher might have approximated to one, and some patriot occasionally exemplified another; but to make precepts like these universally binding, had never entered into the imagination of any one, before the promulgation of Christianity, and it is impossible that they would have been allowed as such upon any but the greatest authority.
Maria. And all the authority rested upon these books, so that if they could haye proved these spurious, they might have retained what they liked, and discarded the rest.
15 On what does Maria say that the authority of these writings depended ?-16 What does Mr. B. tell her she must ever bear in mind ?-17 To what novel rules of conduct was the Christian bound by his religion ?-18 How would the philosopher and patriot have viewed such rules?