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AUTHENTICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Our last lecture was only introductory to the important subject to which I have undertaken to lead your attention. In the present, we enter directly upon one of its principal branches.
The study of the evidences of Christianity may be either brief or extended, according to the object with which it is pursued. If it be merely the possession of some one distinct and conclusive train of reasoning, perfect in itself, the investigation may soon be ended. The student may take any single miracle or fulfilled prophecy; he may choose his premises from the narrative of the resurrection of Christ, or the conversion of St. Paul, or the propagation of Christianity, and confining his argument to the point selected, may deduce a finished proof of the divine authority of the gospel. But if he desire not only rational satisfaction for his own mind, but a full view of all those great highways of evidence which, from every quarter, concentrate upon Christianityif he would behold, not only that it is capable of conclusive proof, but how variously and wonderfully its divine Author has encompassed it with proofs of every kind, drawn from innumerable sources, and
prepared at all points for every objection, he may lay himself out for a work of extensive research, as well as of rich gratification and improvement.
The evidences of Christianity are classed under two general denominations, external or historical, and internal evidence. Under the latter, are included whatever proofs of divine original may be drawn from the doctrines of the gospel ; its incomparable system of morality; the adaptation of the religion of Christ to the condition and wants of mankind; the holy and elevated character of its Founder ; together with all those incidental, but striking and various marks of uprightness, accuracy, and benevolence, which appear in the spirit and manner of the New Testament writers, or which are seen by a comparison of their several books one with another.. Such are the principal heads of internal evidence. Under the name of external or historical evidence, we find whatever exhibits the need of a revelation, as apparent in the state of opinion and practice among the most enlightened nations at the commencement of the gospel; the argument establishing the authenticity of the Scriptures, and the credibility of the history contained therein; the proofs arising from miracles, from fulfilled prophecy, from the propagation of Christianity, and from the social and personal benefits which have always accompanied its promotion, according to the degree in which its native character and influence have had room to appear. Such are the principal heads of external evidence. The present course of lectures, for want of time to
carry it further,* will be confined to the department last described; which is chosen in preference to the other, not because it is more important or conclusive, but as more capable of having justice done it in a series of discussions such as that to which the cir. cumstances of these lectures restrict us.
Should we embrace in our view of this grand division of evidence whatever belongs to it, your attention would first be called to the indispensable necessity of a divine revelation, as the history of the ancient world displays it, and as it is still exhibited in the dark places of the earth. This however we have not room to include in our course. Though extremely impressive and worthy of investigation, it is not an essential argument. The straightforward method of philosophical inquiry directs its attention to the testi, mony simply that an event did occur, and will not suspend assent till the need of such an event shall have been fully explained. If convincing evidence be adduced to the matter of fact that a revelation has been given, we may be reasonably content, while our limits forbid the proof that it was needed. Whoever may desire to read on this head will find it well dis. cussed in the first volume of Lectures on the Evi. dences, etc., by the Rev. Daniel Wilson, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta; or in the admirable letters on the same subject, by Olinthus Gregory, LL. D., Professor
See the Bible Not of Man, or the Argument for the Divine Origin of the Sacred Scriptures drawn from the Scriptures themselves. By Rev. Gardiner Spring, D. D. Amer. Tract Society.
of Mathematics in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, one of the most scientific and pious laymen of the age; or more at large in the learned volume of Leland, on the Advantages and Necessity of a Divine Revelation.
Let us begin with the AUTHENTICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. We possess a venerable volume under this title, consisting of twenty-seven independent books or writings, reputed to have been composed by eight different authors. It professes to contain, and is continually appealed to as containing, not only an accurate account of the history and doctrine of Jesus Christ, but an account written in the first age of Christianity by its earliest disciples and advocates, who were contemporaneous with its author, and were most of them eye-witnesses of the events related. Now, before we can be reasonably warranted in placing implicit reliance in the New Testament, as the book of the facts and doctrines of the gospel, two important questions must be determined. First, Is there satisfactory evidence that the several writings of which it is composed were written by the men to whom they are ascribed? This involves the AUTHENTICITY of the New Testament. Secondly, Is the New Testament deserving of implicit reliance as to matters of historical detail, so that we may receive any narrative as unquestionably true, because contained therein? This refers to the CREDIBILITY of the New Testament.
Thus you perceive, that whether a volume be authentio, and whether credible, are two widely sep
arate questions, neither necessarily implying the other, however the evidence of one may bear
the : proof of the other. Writings may be authentic, composed by the men whose names they bear, and yet not credible. They may be credible, because correct in their statements, and yet not authentic. The question of authenticity refers to the author; that of credibility to the narrative. “The Pilgrim's Progress” is authentic, because it was actually composed by John Bunyan, to whom it is ascribed; though, being an allegory throughout, it is credible only as to the truthfulness of its spiritual meaning. The book entitled, "Travels of Anacharsis the Younger," is credible so far as it exhibits a view of the antiquities, manners, customs, religious ceremonies, etc., of ancient Greece; but it is not authentic, having been written in the eighteenth century by Barthelemy, and fictitiously ascribed to the Scythian philosopher. “Marshall's Life of Washington” is both authentic and credible, being a true history, and worthily honored with the name of that eminent and excellent man from whose pen it professes to have come. That the New Testament is also authentic and credible, we undertake to show. We exclude the more ancient portion of the sacred volume, not because of any deficiency in its evidence, but for the sake of unity and clearness in our inquiries; and because, when the argument for the New Testament is set forth in a conclusive form, the authenticity and credibility of the other is rendered, as will hereafter appear, a necessary inference. The two questions will