« EdellinenJatka »
HAVING endeavoured in my preceding letters to point out the absurdity of Deism—the necessity of : Revelation, especially as manifested by the defective'ness of all the discoveries of the ancient philosophers in respect of morals and theology, and to show that mysterious and incomprehensible things occur in every branch of knowledge; I shall now proceed to an exa..mination of that collection of writings which the majority of Christians in all ages have considered as coming from God, and revered as constituting that system of Revealed. Religion by which our conduct should be -regulated, and on which should be founded our hopes and fears of “future bliss or future woe.” The Bible is not to be contemplated as one book, but as a collection of several, composed at different times by different persons, and in different places. It is a collection of writings, partly historical, partly prophetical, partly didactic, composed some previously, some subsequently, to an important event, adverted to in most of them, called “the coming of the Messiah;” an event which is generally described as having a remarkable tendency to enhance the glory of God, and the happiness of man. Now, to believe the Christian Religion is to believe that Moses and the Prophets, Christ and his Apostles, were what they were described
to be in these books; that is, were endued with divine authority, that they had a commission from God to act and teach as they did, and that He will verify their declarations concerning future things, and especially those concerning a future life, by the event;-it is to receive the Scriptures as our rule of life, as the foundation of our hopes and fears. Such a belief, that it may be operative, must have a substantial basis: and so varied and persuasive are the evidences of Christianity, that every man, whether his intellectual faculties are weak or strong, have been little or much cultivated, may obtain evidence suited to his circumstances. He who cannot enter into elaborate disquisitions concerning the credibility of the Scriptures, has other and often stronger grounds of faith. He may see the provision which the Bible makes for the restoration of man to happiness to be precisely such as his own necessities require: he may see that the purity of its commands has a wonderful tendency to elevate the nature of man, and to produce universal felicity; he may experience that actual change of heart and life which the Gospel promises to all sincere believers; and then, as the Apostle expresses it, “he that believeth on the Son of “God hath the witness in himself.” (g) a witness that may grow and triumph during the decay of the mental faculties, the anguish of a sick-bed, and the agonies of death. But the evidence of which I now intend principally to speak, is that deducible from a more critical examination of the Bible itself, and from collateral tes
timony drawn from historic and other indisputable SOurceS. Now any candid and reflecting person, when he first directs his attention to this wonderful volume, and notices the awful, characteristically authoritative, language which is often assumed in it, will be naturally impelled to inquire, Is this book what it professes to be, the Word of God P. Were its various authors instructed by God to relate the histories, announce the doctrines, enforce the precepts, predict the events, which are the subjects of their respective books? Were they “holy “men of God, who spake as they were moved by the “Holy Ghost,” or were they impostors P Or, to reduce these inquiries into a methodical form, it will be asked generally, Are the Books of the Old and New Testaments (excluding those which are avowedly apocryphal) genuine 2 Are they authentic? Are they inspired? Here nothing is asked that is tautologous, nothing that is superfluous. 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 that are not inspired. The History of Sir Charles Grandison, for example, 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. The Account of Lord Anson's Voyages, again, 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. The same may be said of many other works, which, notwithstanding, lay no claims to the character of being inspired. These three characteristics of genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration, meet no where but in the books which constitute the Old and New Testaments. In order to establish this position, I shall now attend to the qualities of genuineness and authenticity, which will furnish ample employment for the present letter; and shall consider that of inspiration in a subsequent part of the series. Here I shall first present you with three general propositions on the genuineness of Scripture, taken principally from an ingenious philosopher of the last century; (h) and then subjoin some such particular considerations as must, I think, in conjunction with those propositions, remove all doubt from every candid mind. I. The Genuineness of the Scriptures proves the Truth of the principal Facts contained in them. For, First, it is very rare to meet with any genuine writings professing to be real history, in which the principal facts are not true; unless where both the motives which engaged the author to falsify, and the circumstances which gave some plausibility to the fiction, are apparent; neither of which can be alleged in the present case, with any colour of reason. Where the writer of a history appears to the world as such, not (h) Hartley on Man, vol. ii.
only his moral sense, but his regard to his character and his interest, are strong motives not to falsify in notorious matters; he must, therefore, have stronger motives from the opposite quarter, and also a favourable conjuncture of circumstances, before he can attempt this. Secondly. As this is rare in general, so it is much more rare where the writer treats of things which happened in his own time, and under his own cognizance or direction, and communicates his history to persons under the same circumstances. All which which may be said of the writers of the Scripture History. That this and the following arguments may be applied with more ease and perspicuity, I shall here, in one view, refer the books of the Old and New Testaments to their proper authors. It is assumed, then, that the PENTATEUCH consists of the writings of Moses, put together by Samuel, with a very few additions; that the books of Joshu A and JUDGEs were, in like manner, collected by him; and the book of RUTH, with the first part of the book of SAMUEL, written by him; that the latter part of the first book of SAMUEL, and the second book, were written by the prophets who succeeded Samuel, probably Nathan and Gad; that the books of KINGs and CHRONICLEs are extracts from the records of the succeeding prophets concerning their own times, and from the public genealogical tables, made by Exra; that the books of EzRA and NEHEMIAH are collections of like records, some witten by Ezra and Nehemiah, and some by their predecessors; that the book of ESTHER was written by some eminent Jew, in