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me to say, that in argument with unbelievers, we cannot in justice be required to present any of the evidence to which you have been listening. The whole burden of proof lies with the objector. Should the authenticity of Paradise Lost be called in question, no believer in its Miltonian origin would feel himself called upon to prove it. We should wait in calmness till the sceptic had sustained his objection. The book has lived long enough with a fair reputation, to be considered authentic till proved to be spurious. So would common justice warrant us in saying with regard to the New Testament. Eighteen centuries of high and holy reputation are enough to sustain its authenticity, till sceptics, besides pronouncing, shall prove it a forgery. Let the objector be kind enough to state the proof of its spuriousness; let him show the deficiencies in its evidence; let him establish objections to its legitimacy, which all the enemies that surrounded its birth were unable to venture; then will it be time for friends to stand on the defensive and prove its apostolic parentage. But this we know not that any opposer of Christianity ever pretended to have done. How these books were forced upon the world; when Christians were asleep as not to perceive that they were not the books which they had always been reading, and consulting, and expounding, and loving, and suffering for; when the enemies of Christians were so miraculously blinded, and the den of lions in which the church for so many centuries existed was so miraculously hushed and overruled, that such an imposture could gain ad
mission and dwell in universal quietness, without so much as one paw to pounce on the prey or one vigilant foe to discover its existence-what is the evidence that such an event ever took place, I never heard of a human being undertaking to show. You might as well pretend to prove that our American Declaration of Independence, circulated in numberless copies through the country, is not authentic—that our revolutionary fathers published no such document, or else that ours is not the declaration which they published. The adversaries of Christianity are wary. It would require learning and time and talents to make even a plausible show of strength, in conflict with the testimony to the authenticity of the New Testament; but it takes no time, requires no talent or knowledge, for such persons to insinuate that its books are forgeriesto put out a wise suspicion that they were not written by the original disciples. No argument can refute a snoer, nor any human skill prevent its mischief. They know that many a mind will catch the plague of infidelity by the touch of their insinuation, without ever finding, or caring to seek the antidote. Any body can soil the reputation of an individual, however pure and chaste, by uttering a suspicion, which his enemies will believe, and his friends never hear of. A puff of idle wind can take up a million of the seeds of the thistle, and do a work of mischief which the husbandman '
must labor long and hard to undo, the floating particles being too trilling to be seen, and too light to be stopped. Such are the seeds of infidelity, so easily sown, so difficult to be gathered
up, and yet so pernicious in their fruits. It is the work of God, much more than of man, that they do not spread more rapidly and widely. The hand of divine Providence interposes to arrest it, where the regular array of human reasoning would have no room to use its strength.
Here we should leave the subject, were it not that one question of importance remains to be answered. How do we know that the New Testament has preserved its integrity? While it appears so conclusively that our present books are verily those which the evangelists and apostles wrote, and the primitive churches loved and read, how does it appear that they have undergone no material alteration since those times? On this head, the answer is complete.
We may reason from the perfect impossibility of any material alteration. The Scriptures, as soon as written, were published. Christians eagerly sought for them, copies were multiplied, carried into distant countries, esteemed a sacred treasure, for which disciples were willing to die. They were daily read in families and expounded in churches; writers quoted them; enemies attacked them; heretics endeavored to elude their decisions; and the orthodox were vigilant, lest the former in their efforts to escape the interpretation should change the text. In a short time, copies were scattered over the whole inhabited portion of the earth. Versions were made into different languages. Harmonies and collations and commentaries and catalogues were carefully made and published. Thus universal notoriety, among friends and enemies,
was given to every book. How, in such circumstances, could material alterations be made without exposure? If made in one copy, they must have been made universally; or else some unaltered copies would have descended to us, or would have been noticed and quoted in ecclesiastical history and the writings of ancient times. If made universally, the work must have been done either by friends, or by heretics, or by open enemies. Is it supposable that open enemies, unnoticed by Christians, could have altered all or a hundredth part of the copies, when they were so continually read and so affectionately protected? Could the sects of heretics have done such a work, when they were ever watching one another as jealously as all their doings were continually watched by the churches ? Could true Christians have accomplished such a task, even if any motive could have led them to desire it, while heretics on one hand, and innumerable enemies on the other, were always awake, and watchful with the Scriptures in their hands to lay hold of the least pretext against defenders of the faith? It was at least as unlikely that material alterations in the New Testament should pass unnoticed, and become universal, in the early centuries and in all succeeding ones, as that an important change in a copy of the Constitution of the United States should creep into all the copies scattered over the country, and be handed down as part of the original document, unnoticed by the various parties and jealousies by which that instrument is so closely watched and so constantly referred to. Such was the precise assertion of a writer of the fourth century on this very subject. “The integrity,” says Augustine, "of the books of any one bishop, however eminent, cannot be so completely kept as that of the canonical Scripture, translated into so many languages, and kept by the people of every age; and yet, some there have been who have forged writings with the names of apostles. In vain indeed, because that Scripture has been so esteemed, so celebrated, so known."* Reasoning with a heretic, he says, “If any one should charge you with having interpolated some texts alleged by you, would you not immediately answer that it is impossible for you to do such a thing in books read by all Christians? And that if any such attempt had been made by you, it would have been presently discerned and defeated by comparing the ancient copies? Well, then, for the same reason that the Scriptures cannot be corrupted by you, neither could they be corrupted by any other peo
The agreement among the existing manuscripts of the New Testament proves that this holy volume has not been corrupted. Of no ancient classic are the extant manuscripts so numerous, as those of the New Testament. Griesbach in making his edition collated more than three hundred and fifty. These were written in different ages and countries. Some of them are as old as the fourth or fifth century. Some contain all, others only particular books or parts of books of the New Testament. Several contain detached
Lardner, vol. 2, p. 594.
Ibid. 2 228.