Page images

&c., and much more, to the same heavenly-tempered purport."*

34. Such a state of things, such sentiments and language, and the like thereof, invariably found as it is in the very earliest documents of Christianity that can be adduced, and attested by the corroboration of independent historical evidence, is utterly incongruous, wholly irreconcileable and out of keeping with any possibility of the existence of the circumstances under which the Christian revelation is generally supposed to have made its appearance on earth.

35. But it is in perfect probability and in entire coincidence with all the circumstances discovered to us by this wonderful passage of Eusebius, from whom we learn that the Evangelist, St. Mark, was believed to have been the first who extended his travels into Egypt, and became the founder of this same Therapeutan church, in the city of Alexandria, by preaching in the first instance to them, the gospel which has come down to us under his name.†

36. Even the necessary decency of supposing that at least one of the Evangelists should have written a gospel in the language of his own country, has been given up, with the pitiful apology, that the invincible unbelief of the Hebrew nation, rendered the gospel which St. Matthew may be supposed to have written in Hebrew, not worth preserving. So that no gospel, in the language of the country

* Quoted in the Principles of the Cyprianic Age, p. 19. A very rare and curious work (by J. S. that is, John Sage, a Scottish bishop, 1695,) preserved in Sion College library, from whence lent to my use, by the Rev. Dr. Gaskin, Secretary of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. + But what if Mark himself, as well as his colleagues, were really, no Jews at all, but native Egyptians, and bishops of this pre-existent Therapeutan church; the words of Eusebius may present a different sense to the eye of faith, they admit of no other rational understanding.

Τετον δε μαρκον πρωτον φασιν επι της αιγυπτε στειλαμένον το ευαγγέλιον ο δη και συνέγραψατο, κηρύξαι, εκκλησίας τε πρώτον επ' αυτης Αλεξανδρειας συστήσασθαι, τοσαύτη δ' αρα των αυτοπι πεπιστευκότων πληθυς ανδρων τε και γυναικων εκ πρώτης επιβολής συνεστη δι ασκησεως φιλοσοφωτατης τε και σφοδρότατης, ως και γραφής αυτ' αξίωσαι τας διατριβας, και τας συνηλύσεις τα τε συμποσια και πασαν την αλλην το βιο αγωγην τον φιλωνα—i. e. "But this Mark, they say, first betook himself into Egypt, and preached the gospel, that which he also wrote, and first established the churches of Alexandria; and such a multitude, both of men and women, were assembled upon his first attempt, on account of his more philosophical and severe asceticism, that Philo held it worthy to commit to writing an account of their exercises and assemblies, their meals, and their whole discipline of life." Such is the whole of the 15th chapter of the second book of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, discovering to us, the now demonstrated and indisputable fact, that monkery or asceticism, was the first and earliest type of Christianity; that its first preachers were monks; and that not only the doctrines, but that the gospels which contain them, were already extant in the world, many years before the epocha assigned to the birth of Christ.

in which its stupendous events are said to have happened, can be shown to have been ever in existence.

We should naturally think, that any thing rather than an account of events that had really happened, must have been intended by English authors, who chose to write the history of England, in any other language than English. But the conduct of the Evangelists is still more unaccountable, in that they must have gone so much out of their way, to deprive their countrymen of the knowledge of salvation, to write in a language, that 'tis certain they could never have understood themselves, without divine inspiration. Are we to suppose that persons of their mean and humble rank, in the most barbarous province of the Roman Empire, were better educated than persons of the same calling at this day in any country in Christendom, and that the fishermen of the Galilean lake, could handle the pen of the ready writer, in an age, ages before the age, in which, as yet, even prelates, priests, and princes, were marksmen, and comprehended their whole extent of literature, in the sign of the X.



In order to enable the reader to see and apply the force of these admissions and their corollaries, and for the innumerable necessities of reference throughout this DIEGESIS, I have presented him with the best account of the times and places usually assigned as those of the first publication of the several books of the New Testament, on the very highest authority that Christians themselves can affect to refer to on this subject, which he will find in the chapter of Tables.

1. Upon referring to this, it will be seen, that the highest authorities admit, that all of the epistles were written some considerable time before any of the four gospels; and as a necessary consequence it follows, that they must have been written at a still more considerable length of time, before any one of those gospels could have come into general use and notoriety.

2. Nor must we forget, that from the very nature of epistolary writing, the information contained in letters,

that would necessarily be put in the channel of conveyance to the persons to whom they were addressed, immediately upon being written, must as necessarily outrun the slow gradual and uncertain arrival of information conveyed in general treatises, which were no more one man's business than another, and which might remain unknown to the majority of Christians, even on the very site of their most extended publication.

3. Add too, the equally essential calculation of the effect of distance of places, in those remote ages, when our arts and means of conveyance were utterly unknown, which would necessarily render a published narration of events that had occurred in a distant province, of infinitely tardier authentication, than any epistles sent by hand, as those of the New Testament purport to be, and only passing to and from the comparatively neighbouring cities of Corinth, Ephesus, and Thessalonica.

4. Upon the admitted fact, that the most important of these epistles, (say, that to the Galatians) was written eleven or twelve years before the earliest date of any one of our gospels, we may fairly put in challenge, that that, or any other of the epistles, must have been received, read, and known, even many years, before the credit of the gospels was established.

5. These admissions seem to have been yielded, with however ill a grace, by theologians, on account of the manifestly greater difficulties, that would attend the admission of the opposite hypothesis; to wit, that, of the prior existence and prevalence of the gospels; which would palpably throw the language and style of these epistles in reference to those gospels, sheer out of the latitude of all possibility of being received as the compositions of the cotemporaries of the Evangelists.

6. Nor is there more than one single passage in the whole of these epistles, that so much as appears to conflict with this arrangement; and as that is a verbal coincidence merely, it can hardly be held sufficient to overthrow the universal consent supported by the manifest sense and character of every other chapter and verse of those epistles.

That passage is 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25, referring to the institution of the sacrament, in which the Apostle says, " I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in

remembrance of me. After the same manner also, he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do, blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, brance of me.

in remem

This passage, indeed, has the appearance of being a direct quotation from the text of Luke's gospel, xxii. verses 19, 20. "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you.'

[ocr errors]

If there were no relieving alternative, but that the former of these passages must be acknowledged to be a quotation from the latter, as certainly no work could be quoted before it existed; the arrangement, which it will be seen by Dr. Lardner's table, makes the Epistle to have been written at least six years before the Gospel, is convicted of anachronism; and as far as this evidence is concerned, divines are thrown again upon the stakes of all the difficulties that attend the hypothesis they have been at such pains to evade.

1. But the evidently mystical sense of the words themselves.

2. The distinct declaration of the apostle in this place, that he had received what he delivered from the Lord;

3. And in other places (Gal. i. 11), that "the gospel which he preached was not after man; for he neither received it of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ;

4. The most striking resemblance and coincidence of these words with the formularies and ritual of the Pagan mysteries of Eleusis;

5. And the admission in the preface of Luke's Gospel, that his work was only a compilation of previously existing documents, and derived in common with the works which many had taken in hand before him to copy from the DIEGESIS,* or original narration preserved in the sacred archives of the church:

These are arguments entirely sufficient to relieve the dilemma, and to leave it rather probable that Luke took

The first verse of St. Luke's Gospel, if Gospel-readers could but see what was under their nose, would prevent their ever more pretending that the Gospels were original compositions. "Forasmuch as many had taken in hand to set the DIEGESIS in order," which was the original from which the Apocryphal Gospels were taken, and afterward, the improved versions ascribed to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which obtained final approbation, and so caused not only the previous versions, but the DIEGESIS itself, from which they were all taken, to be laid aside.

his account from the same document which the apostle had previously quoted, or even from the text of the apostle himself.

Thus, no exception from the general rule remains; and we must admit, with all its consequences, the prior existence of these epistolary writings, detailing, as they do, the history of communities of Christians, and fully established churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica, "rooted and grounded in the faith,"-" beloved of God,"-" called of Christ Jesus,"-" in every thing enriched, in all utterance and all knowledge,"— coming behind in no good gift," and having, as the apostle, in the case of the Galatian church, emphatically declares, so certainly received the only true and authentic Gospel, that "if even the apostle himself, or an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel than that which they had received, LET HIM BE ACCURSED." Gal. i. 8.-See Syntagma of the Evidences, p. 75.


6. Here we find the Gospel already so fully established, that there was a sense in which it could be said that it had been preached unto every creature under heaven (Colos. i. 23), before the date assigned to any one of the gospels that have come down to us, before any one of the disciples had suffered martyrdom, before any one of them could have completed his commission. Here we find a spiritual dynasty established, exercising the most tremendous authority ever grasped by man, not merely over the lives and fortunes, minds and persons, but over the supposed eternal destinies of its enslaved and degraded vassals, and confirmed by so strong an influence over all their powers of resistance, that its haughty possessor could bear them witness that they were ready to pluck their eyes out, and give them to him. Here we find churches already perfectly organized "to their power," yea (and the Apostle boasts), beyond their power, contributing to the pomp and splendour of their ministers, and beseeching them, with much entreaty, to take their money from them.* (2 Cor. viii. 4).

7. Here we find the distinct orders of bishops and deacons already reigning in the plenitude of their distinctive authorities; and the bishops, forsooth, the proudest of the proud, already of such long prescription in their seat of power, as often to have abused that power, and to need admonitions "not to be self-willed, not to be given to wine, no strikers,

And what goes with the story of the Apostles, meeting with such ill success as to have to lay down their lives for their testimony? It is not only not true, but not conceivable to be true; it out-herod's Herod, and outlies the consistency of romance itself.

« PreviousContinue »