Page images

that is, the immediate successors of the apostles,

regarded this as an epistle of Paul.” The internal evidence is decidedly in favor of its having been writ. ten by that apostle. The salutation from the Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Italy, Heb. 13:24, and the mention of Timothy as his fellowtraveller, Heb. 13:23, are very applicable to Paul. Not only does the general scope of this epistle tend to the same point on which so much stress is laid in his other writings, that we are justified only by faith in Christ, and that the works and institutions of the law are of no avail to our salvation ; but there are also various propositions found in it which are conspicuous in his other works. The same characteristic warmth and energy of expression appear in this as in all writings ascribed in the New Testament to the pen of St. Paul. Hebraisms abound in it as in his other epistles. It contains particular expressions, phrases, and colocations of words, which are either peculiar to him, or are most frequent in his compositions. But as this is not the place to do justice to a question of so much importance, and yet not material to the argument of these lectures, I must refer you, for further knowledge and satisfaction, to the learned work of professor Stuart of Andover, on the epistle to the Hebrews, or to an excellent article in the “ Biblical Notes and Dissertations,” recently from the pen of Joseph John Gurney, of the society of Friends in England.

The epistle of James, being addressed to Jewish
Smucker's translation of Storr and Flatt's Bib. Theo.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

believers, was for some time, to a considerable extent unknown to the gentile Christians. While this was the case, its authenticity was questioned, or rather was not certified among the Gentiles. As soon as this ceased to be the case, its authenticity was undoubted. It is of great importance to the character of this epistle, that in the Syriac version, made at the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, while the second epistle of Peter, the second and third of John, and the Apocalypse, are omitted, the epistle of James, written particularly to the people for whom the version was made, is included and placed on an equality with all those books about which there was never a question in the church. In proportion as it became known among the gentile Christians, it passed through a severe and accurate scrutiny, till in a short time it was universally received, and has ever since been universally honored as an authentic and inspired portion of the oracles of God.

With regard to the remaining epistles, concerning the authenticity of which doubts were for a while entertained, it will suffice to remark in this place, that the fact of their not having been immediately recognized throughout the church as the works of the apostles, only shows that the persons who were in doubt had not yet received sufficient information to make up their judgment; and that the primitive Christians, so far from being so greedy after additions to the sacred canon as to be easily deceived by a plausible pretension to apostolic origin, were ex

tremely deliberate and cautious in examining every candidate for admission into the catalogue of Scripture. Such being the case, the subsequent reception of these epistles, as soon as full time was given them to be universally circulated and known, is perfect proof that they were capable of enduring the most trying investigation of their inspired origin, and were honored with a unanimous verdict as the veritable writings of those to whom they were ascribed, and as part and parcel of the word of God. The reader may find abundant satisfaction with regard to them, in Dr. A. Alexander's excellent work on the canon of Scripture.

It has been stated, that at one period doubts were entertained in the churches as to the authenticity of the book of Revelation. Those doubts imply no deficiency of testimony. Until the fourth century, the character of this book was undoubted, and its authority was universally acknowledged; only one writer questioning whether John the evangelist was its author, and even he admitting that it was written by inspiration of God. About the commencement of the fourth century, the Millenarian controversy having arisen and distracted the churches, and the mysterious character of the book having been extensively employed in the support of new and extravagant doctrines, its character declined ; and without any reference to testimony in the case, its authenticity was by some, though by no means universally or for a long time, brought into question. Thus Eusebius, of that century, after having given a catalogue of the

books universally acknowledged, writes, “After these, if it be thought fit, may be placed the Revelation of John, concerning which we shall observe the different opinions at a proper time.” And in another place, “There are, concerning this book, different opinions." “ This is the first doubt expressed by any respectable writer, concerning the canonical authority of this book; and Eusebius did not reject it, but would have placed it next after those which were received with universal consent. And we find, at this very time, the most learned and judicious of the fathers received the Revelation without scruple, and annexed it to their catalogues of the books of the New Testament."* It is of no small importance that a book so full of evidence against the heresies of the celebrated Dr. Priestley, should have received from his


the following testimony: “ This book of Revelation, I have no doubt, was written by the apostle John. Sir Isaac Newton, with great truth, says he does not find any other book of the New Testament so strongly attested, or commented upon so early as this. In- . deed, I think it impossible for any intelligent and candid person to peruse it without being struck, in the most forcible manner, with the peculiar dignity and sublimity of its composition, superior to that of any. other writing whatever; so as to be convinced that, considering the age in which it appeared, none but a person divinely inspired could have written it.” It is true, and at first may seem surprising, that

* Alexander on the Canon. † Priestley's Notes on Scripture.

while a majority of the ancient catalogues contain this book, there are many in which it is omitted ; though it is known that the authors of some of these acknowledged its authenticity. The omissions are satisfactorily explained by the consideration that the object of these catalogues was the guidance of the people in reading the Scriptures; and since the mysteriousness of this book, and the use made of it on the side of the Millenarian errors when the catalogues were chiefly composed, seemed to render it inexpedient that it should be as generally read as the other scriptures, its name was excluded from several lists of books for universal use, without any intention of pronouncing upon its canonical character.

Having now exhibited satisfactory evidence of the authenticity of all the books of the New Testament, be it remarked, that while every part of the sacred volume is of inspired authority, and therefore of such importance as that no man can take away from it or add unto it without heinous offence against God; still, the argument for the divine mission of Jesus and for the divine origin of Christianity depends chiefly upon the historical portions, and would ex. hibit no deficiency were no attention paid to the authenticity of the others. In what remains to be said, by way of addition to the various and unequalled evidence already adduced, we shall have a view particularly to the gospels and Acts of the Apostles. THE TESTIMONY

OF CHRISTIANITY. It may be said, with some appearance of a plau




« PreviousContinue »