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I wish to be informed by you what the Christian Religion is ?
The Christian Religion is the way of attaining eternal life, which God has pointed out by Jesus Christ : or, in other words, It is the method of serving God, which he has himself delivered by Jesus Christ. I
Where may it be learnt ?'
In the Holy Scriptures ; especially those of the New Testament.
Are there, then, other Holy Scriptures, besides those of the New Testament?
There are: namely, the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
CHAPTER 1. OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
How may it be proved that the Scriptures, including those of the Old and of the New Testament, are authentic? I will reply to this question, first, as it relates to
the Scriptures of the New Testament; and, afterwards, as it respects those of the Old Testament.
How do you prove the authenticity of the Scriptures of the New Testament?
By two considerations: the first, addressed to persons who believe the Christian Religion to be true;the second, addressed to those who deny its truth. What is the first of these considerations ?
It is this :—that there is no just cause why their authenticity should be called in question.
How does this appear ?
There seem to be four causes from which the truth of a book may justly be doubted, but not one of these is in this instance to be discovered. What are those causes ?
They are-first, that the author is wholly unknown: -secondly, that he is suspected;-thirdly, that it appears, from some other source, that the book is corrupted :-and fourthly, that there is sufficient evidence to weaken its credibility.
Inform ine how it appears that the first of these causes has in this case no existence ?
Because, from the very first rise of the Christian Religion, all its professors, though widely differing from cach other in their opinions on other points, have with one consent agreed, that the books of the New Testament were written by the persons whose names they severally bear :-whoever, therefore, would invalidate the unanimous testimony of so many individuals, and of so many centuries, ought to be able to account for this fact by the most decisive reasons.
But . But were no doubts entertained by the ancients respecting some of these authors ?
There certainly were respecting some of them: but as the writings of these authors, which are but few in number, contain nothing that is at variance with the works of those concerning whom no doubt has at any time been entertained, the credibility and authority of both must be regarded as equal.
How does it appear that the second cause of doubting the truth of a work,-namely, the author being suspected,-has in this instance no existence ?
An author is deemed open to suspicion-first, when he is not thoroughly acquainted with his subject :secondly, when his statements are at variance with his knowledge of facts :—and thirdly, when his writings exhibit any indications of doubtful veracity. But nothing of this kind is discoverable in the authors of the New Testament.
How do you prove this with respect to the first case?
It is impossible the mind can admit any suspicion that these authors had not a perfect knowledge of the subjects upon which they wrote; because some of them were eye and ear witnesses of what they describe and relate; whilst the rest received from these persons the fullest information respecting the same matters, and by this means became thoroughly acquainted with them.
How do you prove the same respecting the second case?
· As the Christian Religion prohibits lying, even in the most trifling concerns, it is evident that these authors, who were not only the first Christians, but also the first teachers of Christianity, would on no account publish a falsehood; especially in a case so important as this, which might draw the whole world into some pernicious error.
How do you prove the same respecting the third case?
This follows of course, if the answers in the former two cases be admitted. For, if these authors were thoroughly acquainted with their subject, and had no disposition to write contrary to their knowledge of facts; and if, in the execution of their task, they exercised all the care which persons engaged in such an undertaking would necessarily employ ;-how is it possible that any contradictions or falsehoods should exist in their works? Moreover, men eminent for their discernment and erudition, without any inducement from external considerations, and indeed frequently in opposition to human power, have in every age adhered to these writings with unhesitating confidence ;-which they never would have done, had any such contradiction and falsehood been perceptible in them. And again, this may be clearly established by a rigid examination of all those passages wherein it is suspected that any thing of this kind may be discovered
You have shown why two out of the four enumerated causes which are admitted to expose the truth of writings to just suspicion, have in this case no ex
istence :-prove the same in respect to the third of those causes--namely, that it appears from some other source that the book is corrupted ? .
If this cause had here any existence, it must happen that the books of the New Testament are corrupted, either entirely, or in part. But they cannot be entirely corrupted : otherwise those persons to whom they have been ascribed could not have been the authors of them. And if they have been partially eorrupted, the alterations must be either in those matters which are of great, or in those which are of little, importance. But it is apparent that they have not been corrupted in things of great importance, because the corrupted part, from not corresponding with that, which remained uncorrupted, could not escape detection. But if there exist in them any corruption in relation to things of less importance, this ought not to be deemed of sufficient consequence to destroy the credibility of the whole of the books.
Can you prove in any other way that these books have not been corrupted ?
Certainly: for, in the first place, it is wholly incredible that God, whose goodness and providence are infinite, should have permitted those Scriptures wherein he has revealed hiinself, declared his will, and the way of salvation, and which have always been received and approved by all pious men as writings of divine authority, to be in any manner corrupted. In the next place, as such a multiplicity of copies of these books were, froin the very first, transcribed; as these copies were dispersed into so many different places,